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Thursday, October 23, 2014

We arrive at Lovely Arundel castle

After a harrowing drive, we arrived in the town of Arundel which was much quainter and pretty than Southampton where I work 45 minutes away.  The castle is very well preserved and still inhabited by it's family.  Here's a photo I took on the walk up to the castle.

We must have still looked harried from the drive. As we walked into the grounds, an older gentleman on a golf cart offered to take us up to the castle.  We were whisked around the bend and past the gardens and up the steep hill.  We blew past families with strollers, and white haired people; feeling like VIP's.

We only had an hour and a half before closing time so we raced through the interior first.  They didn't allow photos inside so I'd completely forgotten what it looked like until I looked it up online just now.  I had forgotten about the beautiful library!  My memory is terrible about that.  Without photos, everything just blurs into a general impression colored by my last feelings as I depart.  Here's a photo of the library I found online but it doesn't really do justice to how huge this long hall is.  It was full of nooks and crannies and chairs of varying levels of comfort and style for readers.  Obviously this family valued reading!  

After rushing through the castle interior, we stopped in the courtyard where the Smugglers and Pirates festival was apparently going on.... Maybe we missed it.  When we got there, it was pretty much a handful of people dressed in SCA type garb standing around looking bored.  Oh well, I'd gotten my dose of pirates at the Musical Blades show the night before at home.

Besides, who needs pirates when you have amazing gardens!?

As we exited the castle interior, the same pleasant gentleman with the golf cart happened to be at the exit looking at us expectantly.  Did we really look that worn out??  Regardless, we happily accepted his offer to take us to the gardens.

The gardens were incredibly lush this late in the year.  The weather was beautiful; making me realize that I'd misjudged what clothing to pack.  (All those sweaters would come in handy in Ireland at least.)  The fountains, sculptures and structural elements were perfect to set off what plants remained.  It still seems strange and out of place to see palm type trees in England.  You wouldn't think they'd survive.

We managed to see everything we wanted of the castle (thank you Mister Golfcart!!).  We set the Garmin for Southampton, dropped the car off, found a bite to eat and were all set to start a week of work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Driving (or riding!) in England is scary

My last European adventure began with my director renting a car in Heathrow and me navigating us South to Arundel castle which a coworker had recommended that none of us had ever heard of.  I was especially excited because the day we were going to be there was a smugglers and pirates festival.

We hit the road and my director did a nice job staying on the correct side of the road, then after driving for about an hour we decided we were hungry and thought it would be cool to pull off at a random exit that had an interesting sign advertising a chateau or something.  Once off the highway, the roads narrowed down to a two way, spindly, twisty paving barely the width of 1.5 American sized lanes with no shoulder.  The tree archways that seemed incredibly charming when the taxi driver had taken me through them a few years ago now seemed like a cruel joke with my director behind the wheel.  You know that scene from Planes Trains and Automobiles where John Candy ends up on the wrong side of the road and drives in between two semi's - Steve Martin hallucinating that Candy is Satan?  Yeah, that's what it felt like to me as Chandra was yelling at oncoming traffic, "These idiots don't know what they're doing! Why don't they stay on their own side of the road!" and meanwhile driving hazardously close to the shoulder free side of the road.  I valiantly tried to restrain myself to saying "Chandra, you're too close to the edge!" to once every 5 minutes, but probably averaged every 30 seconds.

Now, realize I am in no way saying that I could have done a better job.  I have never been brave enough to even contemplate renting a car until Chandra said that she was thinking about it.  I'm quite certain I would have done a worse job both in driving and in keeping my nerves and yelling in check.

Chandra kept barking that she was fine.  I kept hearing the tires kicking up the crud on the edge of the road and the brush scraping on the side of the car and clenched my jaw and my butt cheeks.  (I think between this drive and the driving in Ireland, both sets of my cheeks are still sore from extended clenching!)  Not long after she did a jarring curb check, we found a pub and promptly stopped to let our nerves relax and enjoyed a lovely Sunday roast with roasted potatoes and Yorkshire pudding and a nice hard cider for me (none for the driver!).

We got back on the road feeling much better especially knowing that we were close to our destination and that we could take highways to get there!

It was only when we reached our destination that we noticed that the mirror was now broken and the paint was actually scraped off the handle of the car door!!