Day 10 - Rye

Sunday, April 05, 2009
Saturday, the best day of my entire trip! A light breakfast and off for another ride through the English Countryside. More charming villages, plenty of sheep, cows and even a few geese. We ended up in the town of Rye. Very hilly with narrow, cobble stoned streets, Rye is beautiful. We made our way up the hill from the carpark and had a lovely view of the river valley below. Popped into a few little shops along the way before arriving at one of Rye's most famous sites, the Church of St. Mary's with it's bell tower. Before tackling the climb, we needed sustenance so we popped into Simon the Pieman's for a cuppa and a bite to eat. I found this photo while googling for a link to the bell tower and/or Simon's. It's a tiny little tea shop right outside the Church of St. Mary's and serves the best pie ... ever. I had a fabulous apple-blackberry slice served with fresh dairy cream while the AsteReds both had a sausage roll. Sausage roll? At a pie shop? I'll never understand the English. I could only finish half of my slice and one cup of pomegranate-raspberry tea. I could have sat by the big toasty fireplace all day.

After filling our bellies, we walked the few feet to the entrance to the church. At St. Mary's you can climb up onto the roof through the bell tower for a breathtaking view of the village and the surrounding countryside in all four directions. The trip up (and the view from the top) is not for the faint of heart. As is to be expected, there is no lift and visitors have to navigate a series of rickety and very steep step ladders, as well as a very narrow stone "hallway" which requires all but the tiniest of tots to turn sideways. The walls along the roof's walkway are not very high either, making looking over the edge a bit of a gamble but we braved the heights and the high winds for a few minutes before heading back downstairs. The Church of St. Mary's was a much smaller chapel than I had imagined from the outside but it was still beautiful inside. What struck me more though was the amount of charity work the church and it's parishoners are involved in. Every time you turned around, you saw another project they were working on. Incredible.

We wandered up and down (literally!) the small streets, marvelling at names like the House with Two Doors, the Admiral's Apartment (when did my mother move to Rye?), Mermaid Street, checking out the fish shaped door knockers, marvelling at a window ledge filled with lighthouses, and having a great time. We also passed by Lamb House, an 18th Century brick house where Henry James lived and wrote some of his famous works. While walking along the High Street, a lady passing us stepped off of the narrow sidewalk and onto the street where she was struck by a passing car. Don't fear! If was her elbow and due to the pedestrian traffic, the car wasn't travelling very fast. She seemed unconcerned and put the blame on herself when we asked her if she was ok. I was shocked though that the driver didn't even bother to stop! In North America, the plate number would have been written down and she'd have been on the phone to her lawyer before she could pick herself up off the ground! Again, crazy English drivers!!!

The AsteReds took me to an antique shop at the bottom of the hill (Mermaid Street maybe?) beside the giant anchor. I was looking for a present for my father and since he collects coins, I was hoping to find something there for him. The shop had a number of Roman coins and I settled on one from the reign of Gordion III which I think he'll love. I had also picked up a book on the history of money from the British Museum so my final family gift was complete. Big thanks to Asterisk for speaking up when it came to price and starting the haggling process with the vendor (I hate haggling). By this time, we were all feeling a bit peckish and went if search of food. We had spotted signs for a place which was touted to be the best dining experience in town. After a bit of wandering, we found The Globe Inn. While the service was a bit slow and we weren't told about the specials (which sounded delicious and would have been ordered given the chance), the food we were served was delicious. I highly recommend stopping in for dinner or lunch if you ever find yourself in Rye. The Globe Inn is on Military Road.

In case you haven't guessed it by now, I loved Rye. It's a lovely spot for tourists without being "touristy". Quiet, clean, charming. Go go go!!!

After Rye, we aimed for Winchelsea and what was touted as one of the best beaches in the southeast according to the AsteReds' guide book. Whitstable Beach, in my opinion, was better but to be fair it began to hail by the time we got out of the car in Winchelsea and the wind was whipping ferociously down on us from the direction of France (damn them!). The sheep on the other side of the road didn't seem to mind much but then they were covered in masses of curly hair so they likely didn't feel anything. Needless to stay we didn't stay on the shore for long, just enough for a couple of pics, a shot of the sheep eating contentedly on their grass, and then we were off again.

Onto the town of Winchelsea proper. Deep in the heart of 1066 country, we visited the Church of St. Thomas the Martyr. Smaller than most of the churches we'd visited up to this point, it was no less impressive. Some of my favourite shots of my entire trip came from the outside of this chapel. No pictures from the inside; although there were no signs indicating otherwise, it somehow felt disrespectful in this tiny dark space. It struck us all how quiet it was inside (and out); there was only one visitor who left shortly after we came in and there were no caretakers on duty. While we didn't explore much more of the town, like Rye it was very non-touristy despite having a number of interesting places to visit. Lovely.

Homeward bound and more countryside, good tunes on the iPod and death-defying English country roads! Home in time to catch up on a few more episodes of Gavin & Stacey (its no wonder I love Rob Brydon) before Asterisk headed out to pick up some fish and chips. It was a bit surprising that the shop closed at 8 o'clock on a Saturday night but what are you gonna do? At least we managed to get some in time. And, the owner even threw in a couple of deep fried sausages since it was almost closing time. I did NOT try one of these as the thought made my arteries clog but Asterisk seemed to enjoy them. As for the fish, in a word, I loved it!!! I don't normally like fish other than fish sticks or tuna in a can but this was poisson perfection. Light and flakey with the perfect amount of batter, not oily at all. And the serving sizes? HUGE! I could only eat about half of the piece of fish and a handful of chips before feeling completely stuffed. Oh heaven. If the day had ended there, I would have been pleased but today was Earth Hour and there was no going to sleep early for this Captain.

We finished gnoshing just in time to turn out the lights and light a oil lantern that my dad would have loved. Out came the Scrabble board and we set about organizing our tiles. I'm not the best Scrabble player around but I have my moments. I was sure by the last few moves, I was going to lose. Not badly but still... I hadn't realized that the person who uses up their tiles first also gets the points of the tiles remaining with the other players. I lay down my last three tiles to spell "nine" and was surprised by the reaction of the AsteReds...I WON! Yippee for me! Depsite protestations from my hosts that they had "let" their foreign house guest win, I trounced them. Ok, maybe "trounced" is a bit of an exaggeration... I had so much fun getting to play against them in person that the hour flew by! More Gavin and Stacey, some of the best homemade tiramisu, a cider and then off to bed.

Siiiiiiiiiigggggghhh. Do I HAVE to leave on Monday?


Wandering Coyote said...

Well, sausage rolls contain pastry, so there's your connection to pie!

S.M. Elliott said...

I love those twisty, narrow little cobbled streets!! I'm actually afraid to go to England because I think I'd fall butt-over-teakettle in love with it and never ever want to leave.

* (asterisk) said...

Hahaha, when I think pie shop, I think savoury pies, meat pies, like in the days of Sweeney Todd.

You didn't mention Spike Milligan's grave at Winchelsea, but I guess you didn't know who this great British comedian was, so I'll let you off!

And yes, for AsteRed Earth Hour, rather than that strange North American variant, we actually turn of all the lights AND the TV!

I'm enjoying the diaries so far, Cap'n.

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