On this tour of the English Villages of East Anglia and Kent Counties, we are going to show you the homeland where the first settlers of New England were born, grew up, and painfully said goodbye. Of course East Anglia today is not East Anglia of the 1600s. But in the picturesque villages dotted with ancient churches, half-timbered and plaster fronted cottages, and narrow cobblestone streets, you may feel like you are back in the 17th century. Windmills in Norfolk are a common site; “Constable country” is a Constable painting come to life; the beautifully restored mansions such as Christchurch in Ipswich, Lavenham Guildhall, Blickling Hall, Sandringham House, or Framlingham Castle are all accurate reproductions of the magnificent homes the Puritans knew in the early 17th century. Our experienced “Blue Badge” licensed local guides will bring the past to life for us as we explore this beautiful and oldest settled region in England. Come join the Ipswich Historical Society on this very special adventure to discover our heritage!
Day 1: We arrive at Heathrow Airport in the early morning and take a shuttle into central London to our hotel. We enjoy a guided walking tour which includes the British Museum, where we will prepare for our upcoming journey into the oldest Anglo-Saxon region of Great Britain.
Day 2: Off we head by minivan to Ipswich, our East Anglian home for the next six nights. Our elegant country hotel is a former 16th century hunting lodge, set in seven acres of parkland just perfect for strolling. We meet our local Ipswich guide who leads us on a walking tour of the historic center, following the trail of twelve medieval churches. We rest for a cup of tea (or an English brew) before walking to the Christchurch Estate, Ipswich's most glamorous and impressive historic attraction. This beautiful Tudor mansion is set in more than 65 acres of attractive parkland and houses the most important collection of paintings by Constable and Gainsborough outside London. Back at our hotel we can take a swim, go for a walk or relax in the garden pub before dinner in the manor's elegant restaurant. After dinner a local historian will entertain us with stories of old Ipswich.
Day 3: Today we visit the delightful city of Cambridge, the largest and most famous city in East Anglia. An important town since Roman times, Cambridge has been an academic and religious center since the 12th and 13th centuries. Cambridge is dominated by its famous university, founded in 1284, and is today made up of 31 colleges. We visit King's College, St. John's College with its superb Tudor and Jacobean architecture, the beautiful Bridge of Sighs, Queens' College, Trinity College, and the Fitzwilliam Museum- one of Britain's oldest public museums containing outstanding paintings, ceramics and antiquities. On our way back to Ipswich we pass through Newmarket to see the National Stud farm with its famous stallions.
Day 4: Today we drive to nearby Woodbridge to visit the unique and fascinating Anglo-Saxon archeological site Sutton Hoo. It was recently discovered that this site was the burial ground of an Anglo-Saxon warrior king- probably King Raedwald- around 700 A.D. Some 1,300 years ago the king had himself, his most treasured possessions, and his entire ship buried here. Our tour is led by a National Trust guide who tells the story of this important king, how Anglo-Saxon nobles lived in the 7th century and founded a new kingdom in East Anglia. After lunch in the charming town of Orford, we take an interesting drive up the coast, ending with tea or a home brew in Snape Maltings. Dinner tonight is in a delightful old English pub for some traditional East Anglian fare.
Day 5: Today we pay homage to Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop in Groton, where we see the church attended by all the Winthrop family. We have lunch in Lavenham, a beautifully preserved medieval town that was once a great center of the wool industry. Lavenham has some 300 beautiful historic buildings, including the superb 16th century timbered Guildhall. Our route next takes us to the lovely town of Bury Saint Edmonds, rich in archaeological and historic treasures. St. Edmond came here in the 9th century to become the last king of East Anglia. We see the ruins of the great abbey built in St. Edmond's honor and the beautiful Abbey Gardens. We next visit Ickworth House, a very unusual 18th century mansion with a gigantic rotunda, St. Mary's Church, where Mary Tudor is buried, and 12th century Moyse's Hall, which today houses a collection of artifacts from the Bronze Age, Roman pottery, and Anglo-Saxon jewelry. A must is a visit to the famous Dog and Partridge pub to sample a few local ales made using the centuries old traditional method. Tonight there is an optional performance at Ipswich's fine theater.
Day 6: Today's excursion is to the town of Colchester, the oldest recorded town in Britain. Colchester was capital of southeast England when the Romans invaded in 43 A.D. and established the first Roman colony in England. We can still see the Roman walls built as a defense around the town in 60 A.D. and the Roman town gate, the largest in Britain. Colchester also boasts the largest Norman keep still standing in England. Twice the size of the White Tower at the Tower of London, it was built in 1076 on the platform of a Roman temple, with stones and tiles from other Roman buildings. Today the castle is a museum with relics dating from prehistoric times. After lunch a National Trust guide leads us on a walk through "Constable Country", following a picturesque section of the River Stour, frequented by the famous landscape painter John Constable (1776-1837). The walk encompasses beautiful country scenes often painted by Constable, including Flatford Mill, the subject of at least ten of his most important paintings. We'll have time to relax back at our Ipswich manor before dinner.
Day 7: Today's excursion is to Norwich, one of the best preserved cities in Britain. Fortified by the Saxons in the 9th century, it became a prosperous market town when Flemish settlers came here in the 12th century, and it was the second most important city of England until the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. Our visit to Norwich includes its magnificent cathedral, dating from the 11th century. The cathedral spire is the second tallest in England after Salisbury. After lunch we have time to explore the quaint shops of the medieval streets of Elm Hill and Tombland, the old Saxon market place. Next we head out to the country to visit the splendid estate Blickling Hall, where Anne Boleyn spent her childhood. On the way back to Ipswich we stop in the small village of Framlingham to admire the views from the top of its wonderful castle. On our last night in Ipswich we enjoy a gourmet dinner at our hotel.
Day 8: After breakfast, we head south to Canterbury in Kent County, our base of exploration for the next five days. Boasting its famous Cathedral, Saint Augustine's Abbey, and Saint Martin's Church, along with several castles, museums and historic sites, Canterbury has rightly been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We check into our hotel in the center of town and then enjoy a guided walking tour, including a visit to Canterbury Cathedral. In addition to its late 6th Century origin as the seat ("cathedra") of St Augustine in Southern England and the infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170, the cathedral boasts an 11th Century crypt, 12th Century choir, 14th Century nave, and some of the most magnificent stained glass windows in England. Tonight we enjoy a special dinner in one of Canterbury's excellent restaurants.
Day 9: Today we visit two lovely estates. In the pretty neo-Tudor village of Penshurst is Penshurst Place and Gardens, a stately home with spectacular Elizabethan design gardens and the 1,000 year old "Sidney Oak," a tree under which it is said that Henry VIII used to court Anne Boleyn. Chartwell in Westerham is the family home of Sir Winston Churchill. A beautifully preserved mansion with terraced gardens, Chartwell offers a glimpse of the life of this great statesman during the 20s and 30s. The surrounding countryside is beautiful, and a ten minute drive takes us to Chiddingstone, a charming little National Trust village. The delightful 16th and 17th century dwellings, timber-framed, tile-hung, and gabled, cluster around St. Mary's Church, presenting a rare combination of 14th century Gothic and Jacobean Gothic styles. Down the road is Hever Castle, a small 13th century moated castle that was at one time home to the Boleyn family. (Anne Boleyn was Henry VIII's second wife and Elizabeth I's mother.) Here we can see how Anne spent her childhood and find many artifacts unfolding her infamous relationship with the King. If we have time we'll stop at Scotney Castle Gardens, a gorgeous, romantic garden surrounding the moated ruins of a 14th century castle.
Day 10: Our day begins with a scenic drive to England's channel coast at Dover. We visit the famous Dover Castle and the secret wartime tunnels. No fortress in England boasts a longer history than Dover Castle. Commanding the shortest sea crossing between England and the continent, the site has served as a vital strategic center since Roman times. After lunch we go to the Dover Museum, containing an amazing Bronze Age boat, the world's oldest sea-going boat. After a stop at the breathtaking White Cliffs of Dover, we return to Canterbury and enjoy another lovely dinner.
Day 11: This morning we take a short drive to Chatham to visit the World Naval Base. Established in the reign of Henry VIII, this cradle of British sea power built nearly 500 ships, including HMS Victory. The splendid complex of historic maritime buildings and docks now reinterprets the life of the dockyard through exhibits and demonstrations, from the making of the flags and sails to the ropery. We can tour several of the historic boats of the Royal National Lifeboat Collection. Next we visit the town of Rochester, built by the Romans and expanded by the Normans in the 12th century. Rochester's stunning castle is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the country. The magnificent cathedral is England's second oldest. After lunch we visit the Charles Dickens Center, honoring the author who lived here and based many of his novels in this town. Nearby is another splendid castle, Leeds. Originally Norman, built on two islands in a lake, Leeds Castle was described by Lord Conway as "the loveliest castle in the world". A romantic stone bridge links the keep, which rises up from the lake, to the turreted main building. The interior contains impressive statues, carvings and tapestries dating from the 14th century. On the way back to Canterbury we stop in one of the prettiest villages in Kent, Chilham. Its main square is full of half timbered and Jacobean houses, amply decorated with flowers.
Day 12: This morning we drive to the old-fashioned seaside resort of Eastbourne for a look at the glorious windswept Beachy Head chalk cliffs. At short distance from here we come to the tiny town of Battle to learn the story of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the decisive victory in the Norman conquest of England. After seeing the battlefield and the abbey, built by William the Conqueror on the site where his adversary Harold fell, we then stop for lunch in the charming seaside town of Rye. This exquisite hill town has a wealth of intricate streets, red-roofed medieval and Georgian houses, a beautiful 12th century church, and an interesting 13th century citadel now housing the Rye Castle Museum. We'll also see the stately Georgian Lamb House where Henry James lived. Just north of Rye we visit Bodiam Castle, a picturesque fortress built in 1385 by one of Edward III's knights. It is surrounded by a wide moat and pastoral countryside. We head back to Canterbury and toast to our great travel adventure at our farewell dinner.
Day 13: After breakfast we drive to the London Heathrow Airport for the return flight.
Single supplement TBD.
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Europe England History Whiz Archeology/History Cultural Journey