10. Diary Entry: Leeds Castle

Dear Diary,

Today I woke up quite exhausted from to the few hours of sleep I had and the fact that this was the 6th day in a row where I had to get up early to be at the coach on time. Leeds Castle was on the agenda today, which was the last day trip planned for this excursion. I had quite high expectations of this place because it is a) said to be the loveliest castle in the world and b)Franzi wrote her chapter about Leeds Castle and was telling us before how beautiful this place is and what we will be able to see. All this made me really curious and I could not wait to get there. Luckily the weather was perfectly fine again so I was prepared for another joyful day…after I took another nap in the bus.

As we arrived after a 45 minute ride, a little peacock was already welcoming our group at the entrance. I have to say that I did know nothing about this castle before, so even though I expected a lot I had no idea of what to expect. After we bought our tickets and headed off towards the fortress, I quickly realized that this place was far more than just a castle. The grounds were huge and we hiked at least 20 minutes through a park before we even got a glimpse of the building. I was truly amazed by the well-kept with its many birds that just seemed to belong there. I don’t remember how many times I remarked something like „Wow, this is beautiful! “. Every pond seemed to be surrounded by old willow trees with its branches dipping into the water. It was a Fairy tale like atmosphere even before I got the chance to see the castle. But when I did I wasn’t disappointed either. The castle was build, which wasn’t much of a surprise, in a pond surrounded by large green meadows. The view was absolutely stunning and I already calculated that we would not have enough time to explore the entire ground.

We all knew that today was a big food festival taking place on the castles ground. Heading towards the castle, we passed the many tents of locals presenting and selling their food, some of them were still in preparation so we decided to explore the castle first. Listing every impression that got about the building would probably be way too much but what I was really impressed about was the story of Lady Baillie, who was the last person living there. She bought the castle during World War II. Without her, who restaurated the entire building, it probably would not be in the kind of shape it is today. Walking through the halls and the single rooms, I noticed the many precious and partly imported decorations and furniture from all over the world. Franzi told me before that the Lady was said to be the real „Gatsby“and I had no doubt believing that. But it was still very hard to imagine myself living in such a big place.

After the 5 of us (Elisa, Paulina, Vanessa, Franzi and I) have gathered together at the exit, we decided get ourselves something to eat because it was already something around noon and we still had other places to see. And where did we get something to eat? Of course the food festival! I have to say that before the excursion I wasn’t looking forward to England’s dishes, partly because of common prejudices and party because years ago I spent a week in London and the food there was a disaster. But that was until I went to Leeds Castle food festival. Haha! I was like screw the prejudices! I was literally in food heaven. As we got there, the festival was already in full swing and I was almost overwhelmed by the smell. I tried olives, brownies, cider, some ridiculously hot peppers, tea, the best cheddar I have ever eaten and ended up buying cupcakes, a bottle of cider and 2 sorts of cheddar including a delicious apple chutney. Despite the fact that I got to try some really delicious food I absolutely liked the idea of this festival and that had many reasons: The location was unique, the weather was great and we ( as excursionists from Germany) did not only get to know good English, handmade food but we also got the chance to talk to some locals who were willing to have a small talk about not only the food itself but about our journey, our home country and here or there some cultural differences. So I really enjoyed being there even though the festival was not the main attraction at Leeds Castle.

The time went by faster than we thought it would so we decided to make our way to the falconry, which the castle is also famous for. There was a show at 2 p.m. that we did not want to miss. Even though I was not too thrilled about that, I was pretty impressed after all. The birds that we got to see were well trained and some of them bigger than I expected them to be. What I think was well done, is that the birds were really close to the audience, some people even had to duck down a bit when a bird took a short cut over their heads. We all got to see three different birds that showed their skills and after half an hour or so the show was already over.

Most of the group decided wisely to go back to the coach at that time because everybody had to be back there at 3 p.m.. Franzi, Paulina and I instead decided, very unwisely, to quickly rush through the maze, which was directly next to the falconry. Well, rushing through was not entirely possible due to the fact that we had entered a…..maze! What a surprise we faced many dead ends until finally we found an old man offering some help. Thank God this man was there because we made our way out in time. A bit exhausted we caught up with the rest of the group. But still the stress was totally worth it because we really planned to see and go through the maze beforehand.

Sitting in the coach I had not been disappointed of Leeds Castle at all. I grabbed my camera out of my bag and took a look at my photos. I have to say, I was a bit sad that we already had to leave this place, which I fully enjoyed in so many ways, with perfect weather, a beautiful ground, amazing food, a lot of fun and some great people.