This section is the gateway to Great Britain and is rich in historical interest, romantic legends and quaint customs. It is also the playground of holiday-makers. The county of Kent is a land of fragrant orchards, of hops and green grass, of moats and of ancient, red brick, timbered houses, a land where spring arrives gracefully and transforms the countryside into a land of great beauty. Observing the happy character of this land today, one can hardly realize what an apprehensive feeling must have dominated it during the days of 1940 when the hard-pressed British Expeditionary Forces returned to the towns of Ramsgate, Dover, Folkestone, etc.
CANTERBURY is the see of the Primate of All England and contains one of the loveliest and most ancient cathedrals in England. It was in this cathedral that Archbishop a Becket was murdered in 1170 on the steps to the altar. Here rests the body of the Black Prince, hero of the Battle of Poitiers, in his great effigy tomb. Fine examples of Roman mosaic pavements were discovered in the town during the clean-up of the bomb damage caused by reprisal raids during the last war.
Of the many inland places of interest in Kent, TUNBRIDGE WELLS is one of the most famous watering-places in England. Its chalybeate springs have been noted since 1606 and were known to Macaulay, Thackeray and Meredith. Of particular interest here is the Pantiles, a 17th century colonnaded row of shops. . . . Nearby are two of the most beautiful houses in England: Penhurst Place, the superb 14th century, ancestral home of Lord de LTsle and Dudley; and Knole, an ancient and famous house which covers five acres and is filled with treasures of every kind. Both are open to the public.
European Train Travel
Traversing the Continent by rail is romantic. It’s also practical. After all, who isn’t desperate for an alternative to air travel? Especially one that involves few delays or security lines, stations in the center of the action (forget schlepping to the airport!), affordable ticket prices, and a chance to take in the scenery up close. Riding the rails is also easier on the environment. A trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris produces one-tenth the carbon dioxide per passenger of a plane flying the same route. And as of November 2007, the service is carbon-neutral, thanks to the purchase of offsets. Ready to roll?
Europe By Rail
Rail Europe (888/382-7245; raileurope.com) specializes in selling single tickets, as well as all of the major multitrip passes. BritRail passes (from $259 for four days) are the only option available to North Americans for unlimited travel throughout Britain. (Snag these before your trip they’re not sold in the U.K.) Eurail passes cover the Continent and include the Global Pass (from $744 for the 15-day first-class option), valid in 20 countries. For lesssweeping itineraries, there’s the Eurail Select Pass, which is good for three to five adjoining countries; 25 regional passes, each encompassing two or more countries; and 17 single-country passes. Whichever you choose, don’t wait until you hit Europe to buy-it’ll be 20 percent more expensive there.
FIRST CLASS VS. SECOND First-class tickets cost about 50 percent more than second class. That typically buys a reclining seat, a meal, more space for luggage, and a quiet train car. Second class is absolutely fine if your trip is only a few hours-and your motherin-law isn’t along for the ride.
An electric energy buzzes through London in the fall. Starting with the lively fireworks on Bonfire Day until the sparkling display over the River Thames on New Year’s Eve, the action is nonstop, from blockbuster musicals to brand-new galleries, cozy jazz bars, and unique experiences that you can find only in London.
ART AND HISTORY LOVERS
London is a modern city where trends are set and the latest fashions are made; it’s a place where cutting-edge cool meets centuries old grace in the flash of a Tube ride. This diverse mix supplies endless events and new openings, such as the unveiling of the worldclass Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum last month, which is one of the only science-in-action experiences of its kind.
London’s dining scene has come a long way from fish and chips-today you’re as likely to put vinegar on your fries as you are to savor impeccably fresh sushi prepared by some of the world’s best chefs. Get your taste buds up to speed at the first-ever, city-wide London Restaurant Festival (Oct. 8-13). The six-day event will feature a diverse range of eateries, menus, and events.