Jun 2019 - NCL Pearl - Northern European Tour - Part 7 - Tilbury, Rochester UK

Day 13 - Tilbury (port of London) - Rochester

We must be in the UK, it's sunny! As usual breakfast at 'The Great Outdoors' to formulate a plan: the foot passenger ferry is right next to the ship, literally 5 mins to cross the  River Thames to Gravesend on the south bank. And from there a 20 mins train ride to Rochester.

It's quite surreal visiting your own country in the midst of a cruise. We made the most of a southern UK port to see something new to us.

Tilbury port has to deal with the strong tides of the Thames and as such looks like something from a Victorian Steampunk creation with girders and bridges connecting the pontoon to the main terminal. It could do with a lick of paint though.

On that very same pontoon at the back of the ship is the Tilbury to Gravesend foot passenger ferry. As you exit the terminal they will usually be set up to sell you return tickets or you can buy them on board. It runs across the Thames every 30 mins. Similarly for London I would take this route rather than joining the queue for the bus to Tilbury railway station.

One advantage is  the route from Gravesend to London is a faster line - but more importantly if you have seen enough of London recently you can reach lots of destinations quite easily and quickly. Most are heading into either London or heading the opposite way out to Canterbury.

Having previously seen Canterbury we are going to head into Rochester. A lovely Cathedral city about 20 minutes down the line.

Rochester Castle next door to the cathedral is a Norman Keep Fortress built 1127 by the Archbishop of Canterbury & Henry I.

The Cathedral is a beautiful 11C building (though there has been a Cathedral on this site since 604AD which makes it the second oldest in the UK). As soon as you enter you're greeted by one of the volunteers who will provide you with a map and give you a brief history. The architecture is Norman with lots of Gothic additions and the choir is especially beautiful with its unusually decorated main organ.

And even better there is  a lovely little cafe in the crypt which serves homemade cakes (The coconut and lime really hits the spot).

When researching before the cruise, we came across a reference to Restoration House ( above) in Rochester. It opens only on certain days and as luck would have it one coincided with the ships schedule & its a must see.

Its one of those jewels of building heritage (a little like Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine USA we saw in October  2018 on our Transatlantic)

Rather weirdly at one time it was owned by Rod Hull (and Emu, which will mean nothing to anyone not from the UK). It was then seized by the receivers to cover unpaid tax bill. Mr Hull did spend over £500000 modernising it (which luckily meant a lot of original features got covered over and protected)  but now it has been painstakingly stripped back to its original details by the current owners and filled with countless works of art. 

In every room a guide will explain any detail you would care to mention. Its a really excellent find - and the gardens are to die for. Photography is not allowed inside (its still a private home and personal art collection - Original Gainsboroughs oils and Turner sketches hang from most walls)

After a wonderful day in Rochester one of the lady volunteers reminds us that we must visit the church in Gravesend before getting back on the ferry as it has a rather unusual resident in its crypt. The lady looking after the church (St Georges) has been somewhat taken by surprise today by the number of guests visiting. She only popped in this morning to tidy the flowers but nobody mentioned a cruise liner docked on the opposite bank of the Thames today.

Pocahontas travelled to London with her husband John Rolfe (a tobacco planter) in 1616 to be presented to society as an example of "a civilized savage". She actually became a celebrity among English society and spent the year attending masques, fetes and balls. In 1617 they set sail back to Jamestown USA but Pocahontas became ill as soon as they left London and was set ashore in Gravesend where she died of unknown causes -  a rather sad little tale.

We re board the ferry and leave Kent to cross the Thames back to Essex.  The sailaway from Tilbury and back along the Thames is quite interesting as the ship has to negotiate a couple of rather tight bends requiring bow thrusters to support the usual propulsion system. As we are looking forward from the highest forward point in the crows nest club  this gives the strange impression of the ship leaning and banking into the turns.

Campari, G&T and Funky Roots in the Spinnaker Lounge (crows nest)

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