(May 14, 2015)
We were all up early and in a taxi by 8:30am . . . and found out why traffic in London is so very hideous. There was no way out of the city, only through it, and we were stop and go most of the hour + 45 it took us to get to Heathrow. UGH.
We sadly bade our friends goodbye and picked up our car — a SEAT Leon in bright red — from Enterprise.
Driving in the UK for us sees the first day as nervous. I spend a lot of time letting J. know when the car is ‘drifting’ too close to the left curb or lane line, and he tries to get comfortable with a new set of road rules and perspective. Day two always sees us relaxed again, but day one is tough. That said, most of this day was spent on large ‘M’ or ‘A’ roads, which are wide and well marked.
Our first stop was Bodiam Castle, which is SE of London. This castle sits in the middle of a lake and is classic in its lines and looks. It was raining, so there weren’t that many people there, and that meant the archery competition and ‘Maying’ celebration were cancelled. Nonetheless, it was a neat place to see and explore. The fish in the lake (koi, perch, and carp) were HUGE and swarming up to the surface in search of food (from visitors, or fooled by the rain?).
We were hungry at that point, so I googled up a recommendation for the George & Dragon in Chipstead, Sevenoaks. It was along the way and seemed likely. We were a bit early for opening, so hung out on their couch in front of an open fireplace (not lit, despite the drizzly weather), reading the local paper (tsk tsk Charles!). We were tucked into a table just to the right of the fireplace and quickly ordered the fresh bread and butter. J. tried a local drink from Chegworth Valley — pear and ? along with his marvelously cooked steak sandwich, while I had a glass of Sangiovese to accompany my divinely delicious duck confit. We left the G&D happily full and quite content. (Meal cost = 41 pounds and included a bottle of water.)
Looking at the map, and factoring in the rotten weather, had us deciding not to see Dover but pressing straight on to Portsmouth. As it was, we arrived at 7pm. It was a long day and we went for easy by having dinner at our hotel — The Kitchen. The menu looked nice, although a bit overwrought. I started with the crab and leek cakes, which were nice, J. had the poached pear, which was very elegant. For the main, my brie & spinach stuffed chicken breast was fine, but J’s pork was dry and overwhelmed by the creamed cabbage; it simply was not very good. To their credit, our server asked if the chef could make something else for him, but J. declined.