Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Upnor. Mysterious and Quaint

Before bed last night Julie asked if I'd like to go to work with her. I said yes even before she said where she'd be working. Julie works in some of the most beautiful places I've ever been. So this morning she dropped me at Upnor, a very small and quaint village along the Medway River. My destination - the very mysterious Upnor Castle. Julie and I have visited before, but never have I ventured into the fort walls by myself! I kept myself up all night thinking about it ... would I see a ghost? Would I get taken my a mysterious spirit? "It's the sight of a famous battle" I said to myself, "there has to be something lurking".

After saying goodbye to Julie, I walked up a short path to the castle gate I was surprised to find that the gate was closed. I found a seat outside the nearby pub and waited for an answer. Soon after, the clock tower sounded and a little old lady passed me. "Are you waiting for the castle dear?" she said, "yes" I answered. "Well, it's open now" she said very excitedly. I spoke to her for a minute about what she called "her castle". She told me that she'd lived in Upnor since the 1950s and that the dog she was walking was nearly blind, but knew the streets well. It was a great morning chat. As we parted I noticed a funny looking man walking towards the castle. I didn't see him enter the gate, but he walked as if he were late to something. Anyway, I bought my ticket in the gift shop (only 3 quid) and spoke to the keeper. He told me that I was very lucky to have the castle all to myself. Although I was happy to be able to wander freely, I was also a little hesitant. Needless to say, I skipped buying the ghost guide.

A photo frenzy began as I came closer to the grand Elizabethan building, the sun made the river look sparkling. A tugboat passed by. I began snapping away and couldn't stop. UNTIL ... I stopped to take a photo of a this doorway and suddenly a figure flashed past it (inside the building). I stopped breathing entirely. I felt like running, hiding, getting away somehow. I know this is kinda gross but I thought I might have to check my pants because I absolutely (as the English say) sh*t myself. Anyway, I quickly made my way to another part of the property where I could observe the area. I soon realized that the figure I'd seen was the strange man from the high street. Phew! Only wait ... is that a dress? The man was wearing a skirt. What did I say, Upnor is a mysterious place.

After that little dilemma, I decided to toughen up and make my way into the tunnel leading to the river side (front) of the castle (seen below). The door (black and white below) was scary enough. Julie and I had said, when we visited before, that if there were any ghosts lurking in the castle, they would most definitely be in or around the tunnel. I took a deep breath and put on my "tunnel vision", focused on the light at the end and made my way through. Phew! again. I made it to the other side and continued my photographic frenzy, crazily clicking and snapping. After getting all the right shots, I made my way back into the castle to find that I'd been accompanied by a few other tourists, who had bought the audio tours (hmm..). I was glad that I was no longer alone, especially if creepy skirt man was sneaking around.

At this point, my feet were getting tired from walking up and down many ancient staircases and cobblestone steps. I retired my photo frenzy for a minute and did my best at taking it all in. I noticed the same steam tugboat I saw earlier helping a barge back down the river. Before leaving, I admired a fence full of newly born ladybugs (or ladybirds) on a picket fence bordering the grounds. I also had time to stop into the gift shop on the way out and buy some do-it-yourself pop up tudor models (post to follow). After I payed, the keeper in the shop gave me a quick lesson on the castle, English Heritage and its connections to the U.S (must be my accent) before I said my final goodbyes. Before meeting Julie I sat along the high street and treated myself to a coffee at the nearby Shepherd's Neame. I took my time on my way to the car park, admiring each and every lavender stem and blue door that I passed.

It was a perfect morning. A perfect adventure.