Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

I’ve been in Canterbury almost two weeks and I can definitely see myself coming back. I love this historic city of pilgrims. The days are mostly sunny and the temperatures are perfect. We had a tremendous thunder storm last night, but still no rain during the day.

making supperI’ve adopted the European shopping habit of going to the market every day to pick up what I need for supper and the two lesser meals for the next day. (I love that I can buy one beer at the store. That gives me a chance to sample many kinds.) I figured out the oven (after one false start) and roasted a lamb shoulder. I pan-fried fresh salmon with seasoned rice, and tonight I’m making stir fry. These larger cooking fests make enough to last two days. And I finally figured out the washing machine.

crooked bookstore in CanterburyI already have a favorite thrift store where I bought a shirt and dropped off some items that I wasn’t wearing. (There’s only so much room in the suitcase.) And I love the quirky Catching Lives Used Bookstore where I can leave books that I brought along but have finished reading. It’s a charity for homeless people. I’m getting used to people calling me “Deary” “Love” and even “My love” – I like it. But I don’t say it back; that would be too cheeky. Yes, life is good in Canterbury.

street musiciansBut good food, favorite shops, and weather aside, what I really love about this place is its lively vibe. People stream into the city centre from all over. I hear so many languages spoken, so many people wandering High Street. Musicians play on several corners (a surprisingly large number of accordions!), just far enough away from each other not to interfere. Most are good enough to make me want to pause and listen.

High Street n Canterbury, UK

Sidewalk cafes do a lively business, and the delicious smells coming from the restaurants entice the nose. Most streets in the city centre are restricted to pedestrians only and the odd delivery truck. Good thing, because they are packed, especially on the weekends.  And yet, there’s a reserve about the crowds, as if they’re modern-day pilgrims, here to recognize the special significance of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The City Centre is inside the walls. Outside is traffic and the larger Canterbury. But few private gardens inside.

The City Centre exists inside the walls. Outside is traffic and the larger Canterbury. But few private gardens inside.

I love the history all around me, the Roman walls, the medieval city, the historic houses sitting right on the street. But it is this same architecture that sometimes leaves me feeling unsettled. There’s no nature. Unlike other English cities with their houses that have small front gardens, there was no planning for this back in the middle ages. People do what they can: many shops and houses set out large hanging baskets of flowers. But in general, what one sees is houses directly fronting sidewalk and sometimes the street.

inconspicuous entrance to Greyfriars GardenI must have stumbled upon most of the green spaces in the city centre on my initial walk. They aren‘t particularly close or on the way to High Street, so I’m not getting to them regularly. I was feeling a lack of nature. I should have consulted a map, because I’ve been walking right past the inconspicuous entrance to a bit of heaven for almost two weeks, and only a block from my flat!

view from footbridge into Greyfriars GardensWhen I saw a family coming out, I stopped to read the sign, then went in. (This is one of the advantages of traveling solo: I can change my plans instantly.) Walking along a footpath past a couple of cottages, and then over a foot-bridge, I immediately fell in love with Greyfriars Gardens.

plants in Greyfriars GardensInside, I found paths with woods, a natural meadow, the Stour River, formal gardens, foot- bridges, pear trees, several kinds of apple trees, roses, and the Greyfriars Chapel, originally the Greyfriars guesthouse, which straddles the river. It appears that the visitors are mainly local folk: moms with young children in strollers, young people enjoying a picnic on a blanket, dads pointing out the fish and ducks in the river to their kids. And it’s all free, though if you visit the Chapel, you can give a donation. The two lovely volunteers there talked so earnestly that I feel compelled to share a bit here.

Greyfriars Gardens chapel St. Francis of Assisi started the Greyfriars order in Italy in 1210. Before he died in 1226, he sent nine Greyfriars to England in 1224. Five of them settled in Canterbury, setting up huts on the current meadow. A wealthy citizen donated the land to them.

Greyfriar Chapel, arch and flowersThey built quite a community in the following 300 years, but in the Reformation of Henry VIII, all of the buildings, except the guesthouse, were destroyed. It was saved because it had been given to the people of Canterbury and had no religious purpose. In fact, it was likely a mill. The building has been owned by many different people/groups since then. It even served as an overflow prison at one time. Today the Eastbridge Hospital owns it and has put a chapel in the upper floor where services are held on Wednesdays. It’s lovely.

formal garden, punter, pearsSo now, I pop into Greyfriars Gardens about once a day on my way to or from High Street. When it’s cool and I need sun, I go to the formal garden or the meadow. When it’s warm, I stand in the shade of the pear tree and smell the ripe fruit that has fallen on the ground.

fish in the Stour RiverI watch fish dart up and down the river in schools and listen to them splash as they grab a morsel. I study the bees visiting the flowers and almost need to shade my eyes with the brightness of the colors. And I enjoy seeing people on the river cruise. There’s almost always a punt coming through on the river with a guide talking about this, my secret garden.

It’s a serene bit of nature, a peaceful retreat. A chance to get lost in the now. I am so blessed to have found it.

 

garden compressor and flowersFor other essays from this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

IMG_8515Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in enjoying other cultures, learnng new things, self care, thifting - thrift stores, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue, at Margate, UK

Margate Beach, UKI’d been in Canterbury for a week, and hadn’t noticed how much I missed the sea. Canterbury, in the county of Kent, is inland about 6 miles from the closest beach. By train, the closest is Margate, the site of the Shell Grotto that I wanted to visit anyway. I got the 9:09 am train out of Canterbury and was on the beach before 10. The tide was clearly out. A huge beach, the size of several football fields greeted my eyes. Sand! I was so excited. The beaches of Isle of Wight and Brighton had been all pebbles and rock mounds, called shingle beaches.

Margate Beach, Margate, UKBut Margate’s beach is sand – vast expanses of sand! I reined in my giddiness when I saw that the portion of the beach closest to the road had been raked by a big machine. They were preparing it for the beach-goers. But farther out, I saw it still held a thin layer of water, so I marched out there.

kelp using rocks as anchors and worm poopAlong the way, I did not see much: seaweed, the occasional rock and even a bivalve shell engulfed by kelp-like roots, a couple of limpets, and lots of tiny piles of sand shaped like intestines. I asked a fellow beach-walker what they were. “Oh, that’s worm poop. The worms dig their way down into the beach by eating and extruding the sand. I see fishermen down here all the time digging them out for bait.”

ripples in the sandI’d already wandered around for about 20 minutes and learned a lot, but didn’t see anything of interest to me as a beachcomber. It was just too immense an area. I’m used to combing linear beaches. This was totally different.

“Think Diane, think. What have your beachcombing gurus taught you?” I mentally reviewed my “finding-stuff” tools.

  1. high tide markCheck the high tide line. Things get deposited there. In this case, the high tide line was behind me toward the dry beach, so I went back. It was a mass of seaweed, just beginning to get stinky. The seaweed was drying in clumps, so I couldn’t see anything else without pawing through it. I abandoned this tool pretty quickly.
  1. Blue shells that look like pottery shardsGo to where you see objects of the size you are interested in collecting, because the tide will deposit similar sized and weight objects together. I found a section of the beach where much less seaweed was interspersed with other stuff, mostly rocks and shells. A blue-black muscle shell kept fooling me into thinking it was a piece of pottery. Nope. I did collect some of them and other shells too.
  1. finds from the streamFind a stream; interesting objects can be washed into it. In the middle of this vast expanse of wet beach, I saw a stream, so I walked it, inspecting it closely. Sure enough, within five minutes I found several shards, tile (?), and glass. Except for the clear glass with raised dots, the sea-glass was not the best quality; I saved them anyway as examples of using my tools. The glazed white piece is curved with masonry on the back. But wouldn’t a tile be flat?
  1. beached boatsBe alert for transitions. I started walking towards the beached boats when I found myself in a new mass of seaweed. This time, the seaweed had caught a large number of whelk shells, maybe 20 within a 3×3 yd2 I chose three, making sure the animal was not alive.

Margate Beach, Margate, UKAlso in this area, I spotted what I thought might be a pipe fragment. Alas, it was not. I’m still trying to figure it out. A large amount of what looked like black ink came out of it when I scrubbed it back at the flat.

I also found a number of flat items. The pinkish one had been embedded in a matrix at one point. The large piece appears to be worked stone, like slate. The center one, which looks gold when wet, is probably plastic. Oh, this reminds me of another rule.

  1. IMG_8081Scan the ground and water for shiny objects, squares, trapezoids and triangles. Shine might mean metal. Pottery and glass often break into these regular shapes. Train your eye to see them.

6. Search near piers, groynes, fallen trees, and other stationary objects. Sometimes things get caught behind and against them. I walked over to the seawall, but found only a pile of soft sand, seaweed and litter. But the stairs nearby proved more fruitful. I walked along the sand where it met the lowest step and began to find a great bounty of shards, including hard paste, soft paste, and terracotta.

shard with patternI continued to find more shards here, but hadn’t yet found a shard with a pattern on it. And then, there it was against the step. After spending a little over an hour canvassing the beach, I felt I could finally leave.

tide came back in; boats now floatingIt was time to go to the Shell Grotto anyway. Awe- inspiring, but not as fun or deeply calming as the beach. After lunch, I walked back to the seafront and found the boats afloat. I’m so glad I did my beachcombing first. That’s tool 7: Know the tides. I just lucked out on that one. Obviously, I still have so much to learn. Now I’m trying to figure out if I have enough time on this trip to come back to Margate Main Sands, to practice again.

All of the finds from Margate BeachI have one other beachcombing guideline, more a rule than a tool that I continually relearn: Wipe your hands on your pants, not your coat. The pants are easier to wash.

 

Many thanks to my beachcombing teachers, Deacon, Barbara, Leslie, Sherri, Christine, and Lynn, without whose prior guidance, I would never have been able to canvass such a large beach with so much success.

 

beach-goers at Margate beachFor other essays on this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

beach goers at Margate BeachExploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

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Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

IMG_7547I am fortunate to be staying in the Canterbury City Centre, mostly defined by the original Roman city walls, built between 270-280 AD, and rebuilt in the 14th century. I love wandering. Come explore with me; the city centre is very walkable. (While my photos imply a lot of greenery, most of the city centre looks more like Hospital Lane and High Street – no sweet little front gardens, just cobblestone or blacktop. Where do they go with all the rain when it comes down?)

Water LaneBecause it’s a very old city, the street names are simple and often mean what they say. For example, Water Lane is right off the Stour River. This is the spot where you pick up the Canterbury Punting Company’s river tour. A group was just leaving as I arrived. No worries, they set off every 20 minutes. I’ll catch another later.

Hospital Lane is narrowLanes are smaller than streets, and from the examples I see, they’re only a block long. My flat’s doorway, on Hospital Lane, steps right out onto a small sidewalk with the narrow driving lane just beyond.

Hospital LaneThere’s only room for vehicles to pass if one of them gets onto the sidewalk. The double yellow lines mean no parking, but that’s self-evident; if you park there, no one else is going to get through.

Yes, there was a hospital on this lane at one time. The building is still there. But I found out that hospital does not mean the same thing as we think of in this capacity. Here the meaning of hospital is hospitality. There are a alms houses in Canterbury where people still live. Hospital Lane is just two blocks off High Street, the main street through the city centre.

Norman Castle in Canterbury UKOn the south side of the city centre on Castle and Gas Streets, sits the Norman Castle. When William the Conqueror came through after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the people of Canterbury sensibly did not put up a fight. Soon after, King William put up defensive castles in several key cities, including Canterbury, first wooden, then stone. Its ruins remain, and you can even go into it and up a couple flights of stairs. This is free, and by the way, all unsupervised. In the US it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. And what about the cross street, Gas Street? In 1825, the gas company purchased the castle to use as a storage center for gas. It now belongs to the city.

Church Lane

St Mildred's Church graveyardNear the castle, on Church Street, is St. Mildred’s, the only pre-Norman Church in the city; i.e., it existed when King William got here. It was an Anglo-Saxon church dating from the 11th century, substantially restored in 1861. I found the mummy-shaped monuments in the church yard unusual. There’s a practical boot scraper at two of the church entrances. I wonder why we don’t see these more often; probably deemed a safety hazard.

Butchery LaneNorth of High Street we find Butchery Lane, but you won’t find any butcher shops there now. The closest thing to a butchery is a restaurant that shows different cuts of beef on a tile wall, the cow head on a building in the lane, and another restaurant that claims to provide fine and proper hamburgers, whatever they are. Presumably, a butcher would know.

Beer Cart LaneAnd on Beer Cart Lane . . . a letdown. There’s no brewery anymore though at one time there was a “Rigden and Delmar’s Superior Canterbury Ales & Beer with a Porter equal to any sent out of London, and at a much less price.” But there is a great used bookstore (The Chaucer Bookshop). I went in to purchase a book by Jane Austin. The owner apologized that he had no first editions or signed copies, then apologized again when he discovered all he had were paperbacks. That’s okay. He had three copies of the book I wanted, Persuasion, so I had my choice of font sizes and price.

Mill LaneI ended my walking tour on the north end of the city centre, on Mill Lane, where there was once a grain mill. The city has turned the picturesque area with the sluices and some of the mill’s remains into a park. There’s a project afoot to restore the mill.

End of river tour at Mill LaneMeanwhile, this is the turn-around point for the Canterbury Punting Company’s river tour. Hey, that’s the same group I saw starting their tour on Water Lane! What are the chances of that? I didn’t even know I was headed here.

IMG_7534Interestingly, there are no roads called Cathedral Street. Presumably one either knew where it was or could see it towering over every other building in town.

 

For other essays on this trip to England see:

map of City Centre, Canterbury, UKEveryday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

 

 

Posted in enjoying other cultures, learnng new things, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

IMG_7491I’m now in Canterbury, settled by the Celts, captured by the Romans, captured again by William the Conqueror, home of the main Church of England Cathedral, site of the murder of Thomas Becket, journey’s goal for the pilgrims in Canterbury Tales, and UNESCO World Heritage Site. So much history!

IMG_7423But instead of sightseeing, I am recovering from a bad cold. My main purchases have been orange juice, “chesty” cough syrup, Kleenex, and soup. I have to admit to loving the English soup selection – many exotics! Even the chicken noodle has corn, red chili puree and turmeric, not in my Grandma’s or Campbell’s versions.

Despite the delights of napping and soup meals, I face an onerous task that can no longer be put off. Laundry. I am down to my last pair of underpants.

dishwasher from March 2016 tripThe source of my consternation has been my dubious track record with English appliances. All of the places I’ve stayed so far on this trip have had dishwashers, but frankly, it’s just easier to do dishes by hand than to try to understand the machines. What do all those symbols mean?

However, I must use the dreaded washing machines. In Cowes and Brighton, they were fairly straightforward, meaning, they only washed, rinsed, and spun cloths. In Cowes there was a timer on it that we didn’t understand, and my sister and I ran out to the washer shed for a couple of hours before the dang thing even started. Still, in the end, it washed the cloths.

IMG_7432But the washer here in the Canterbury flat is one of those washer-dryer models. I’ve had problems with them before, when my daughters were along to help decipher the mysteries of the machine. In Canterbury, I am alone.

I’ve been looking at the front-loading washer-dryer in the kitchen for two days. I even located and read the machine directions, not that everything is perfectly clear. So I gathered my clothes, pushed them into the machine, and crouched down to read buttons. Hmm, the fabric selection guide is pretty expansive.

IMG_7392I picked 4, colourfast nylon and polyester, even though I don’t have any nylon or polyester, because it seemed gentler than some of the other choices and I didn’t want to ruin my bras. Then I picked 50 ̊ because that went with 4. Then I put the dryer timing on zero hoping I could avoid drying altogether.

At 8 am I gave the door a final secure shut, and the light went on. The light is your friend. It tells you that you are doing the right thing. Maybe. I sat down with my coffee and spent a couple hours writing. I could hear the washer making noise, but otherwise paid it no mind. Perhaps that was a mistake.

Noon: I wander to the kitchen to make lunch. The light is still on. It looks like the clothes are already fluffy, like they are in the process of drying (dang), but the drum isn’t moving. What I DO notice is that the floor in front of the washer is ice cold. It’s not wet, just cold. Double dang. I didn’t want my clothes dried, but if that’s what the machine is doing, why is it taking so long?

IMG_75522:30 pm: the floor is still cold. The light is still on. Clothes look oddly suspended. Nothing else seems to be happening. If the machine IS drying my clothes, it’s frying the heck out of my bras. I gently tug on the door to see if it will open so I can remove them. Nope. I’m annoyed and decide to take a nap. I really can’t go anywhere while the machine is on.

3:30 pm: I wake up to find the light still on and the floor still cold. I am afraid my bras are totally fried, so this time, I give the door a good yank. Mistake. It flies open and cold water pours out. (But it looked dry!!) As I scramble to push the door shut against the rush of water, I see pieces of my clothing stuck between the door and the frame. I grab the dish pan and push it under the door which does capture part of the torrent. Meanwhile SOMETHING finally starts happening. The machine goes on, the drum rotates and water is still coming out of the opening, though at a slower rate. I keep pushing on the door, and see the pieces of my stuck clothing slowly get sucked into the machine as they twist around with the rotation of the drum. I finally have a seal, and I can take the pressure off the door.

IMG_7396There’s about a quarter inch of standing water everywhere, the kitchen rug is squishy, and water is starting to leak onto the living room rug. Time for a good laugh, but my sides hurt so much from coughing the last couple days that it literally hurts to laugh. After sopping it all up, I return to the living room and sit listening to the sound of the now working (?) washer.

At 3:48 the machine begins to whine, then turns to a death-rattle. I’m afraid to look. Four minutes later, all noises cease. I check the status. The machine has definitely stopped moving, but the light is still on, staring at me like an orange dragon eye. I decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and walk back into the living room.

IMG_74054:30: I am getting impatient. I’ve now been at this for 8.5 hours. I check again. I can see the clothes sitting wet on the bottom of the drum but the light is still on. I slowly open the door. Nothing untoward happens. Everything is still damp, but not dripping.

IMG_7406I take this as a victory, remove them, and put them on the drying rack in the living room. The good news is that my bras have not been fried. The bad news is that I do not know how to wash them again in a couple days without repeating what happened today.

I could try reading the manual again. But first, I’ll need more soup.

 

IMG_7435For other essays about this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in facing my fears, getting out of my comfort zone, travel as a transformation tool | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Must-see sights, Brighton, UK

IMG_6996I took the City Sightseeing bus to plan how and what to see in Brighton over my next three days. The feel of the seaside resort city (250K) is a combination of Regency and Victorian. The town’s popularity started in the 1730’s when bathing in and drinking sea water became a fashionable health cure. Doctors at the time also highly recommended the bracing air. I noticed a strong wind the entire week I was here.

IMG_7083Then when the Prince of Wales (later Regent and King George IV) bought a property here and built a residence (the Royal Pavilion) to hold his many parties, Brighton’s future was secured. The Prince liked gaming, fast living, and ladies, and his use of this new residence away from London helped him stay out of the eye of the Royal Court and his father, King George III.

Statues of George IV and Queen VictoriaIt was rebuilt three times with the final result an Indo-Islamic exterior and a Chinese-Indian interior. King George IV and his successor King William IV stayed here often on holiday.

But Queen Victoria found this summer palace too confining for her family of nine children, so she sold it to the city of Brighton in 1850 and used the money to build Osborne House. (See The Gum Incident – Osborne House, Isle of Wight.) The Pavilion is open to the public for a fee.

grounds of the Royal PavilionVisiting the restored gardens at the Royal Pavilion is free. John Nash designed them in 1820 to create a natural outdoor space, unlike other royal gardens, where every leaf is managed. Even the lawns are left to grow longer than normal. Many local residents find refuge here from the bustling city.

IMG_7003Royal pleasure palaces aside, the centerpiece of the city is the beach, or better said, beaches. I’ve never been to Coney Island or Atlantic City, but I imagine they are similar to this.

Brighton aquarium, Brighton, UKI started my tour of the beach area with the Brighton Aquarium (Sea Life Brighton), the oldest in the world (1872). The gorgeous original Victorian architecture competed with the exhibits and an opportunity to touch spineless urchins and starfish. Their biggest tank, which can be observed from top, sides and underneath, contains 11 sharks, two giant turtles and one very large manta ray. My favorite exhibits were the nautilus and the cuttlefish.

Brighton Pier, Brighton, UKThen I hit the Brighton Pier opened in 1899. Originally one of three, it’s the last one standing. And it’s free to enter! It has carnival rides (roller coasters, Cups & Saucers, House of Horror, bumper cars and Brighton Pier, Brighton, UKmore; ride all day with a £20 wristband), fortune-telling (Ivor was busy giving a taro reading when I walked past his wagon), henna tattoos, the Palace of Fun (an arcade with electronic and mechanical games – bring ear plugs!), and the Dome with games like Air Hockey and foosball. The pier originally had a theatre too, but it was damaged in 1973 when a 70 ton barge hit it in a storm, and was finally removed in 1986.

IMG_7020There’s plenty of food and lots of variety (what are jellied eels?), but be careful of the seagulls. They’re just waiting to take it away from you.

You can also get married on the Pier with Elvis Shmelvis officiating, though why you’d do that is beyond me. With all the people, noise from electronic games and carnival rides, dueling music sources, and Deck chairshappy/unhappy children, I can’t picture this as a romantic setting for a wedding.

But there was one offering, besides the ice cream, that I enjoyed – the free deck chairs. I was ready for some quiet contemplation of the sea beyond the pier.

Brighton beach activitiesThe beaches at Brighton also provided other kinds of fun. There’s a promenade that extends the three miles (and farther) to the area where I was staying. I walked the entire length on several days. Along the promenade you can find places to play beach volleyball, basketball, take kids for safe water fun, ride a carousel, pass time with a glass of wine, appreciate sand art, get taken by the three-buckets-and-where-is-the-ball-now routine, listen to live music, ride 531 feet to the top of the i360 (Brighton’s answer to the London Eye), eat, rent a bicycle, and visit the Brighton Fishing Museum (free admission, since the the boats are sitting outside anyway). Interestingly, no one was selling selfie sticks.

beach - quiet endOn the quieter end of the beach, people actually do swim (while others of us are bundled up in coats). The groynes provide a nice barrier from the wind for reading and privacy for semi-nude sunbathing, though the nude beach (established in 1979) is on the south end of town beyond the Pier.

beach promenadeA bike lane runs along the promenade or the main sidewalk, where people also skateboard, little ones try out new bicycles, and families ride scooters. Along the Hove Lawns section of the promenade, I saw a line of colored sheds, with families removing things such as blankets and lawn chairs to take to the beach. Some people partied right in front of their sheds. A couple sheds even contained bars. I asked a lady who was reading in front of her shed if people rented them. She replied, “We own them.” I was cheeky enough to ask what they go for if people decided to sell theirs. Answer, about £15,000. “Dreadful, isn’t it?” she asked.

Evening in BrightonAt night, the entire beach is busy. It’s a magical time. At nine, it’s still fairly bright out, yet all lights are on. The restored Victorian Bandstand, the Brighton Pier, the carousel, all begin to glow as darkness falls.

Brighton beach nightBut nightlife is not my gig, so I walk home along the beaches, now familiar even in the dark. I see the occasional group with a beach fire. Soon it’s just the waves lapping the shore, me, and the moon.

 

For other essays about this trip to England see:

IMG_7248Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

 

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Exploring Brighton, UK

IMG_7086Friends who don’t travel much have asked me how I explore a new city. First, the Internet is my friend. Long before I ever leave home, I can research bus routes, find out how close grocery stores and train lines are to where I’ll be staying, and look up local sights. But what I do first when I get there, depends on how much time I have. If a few days, I begin with the must-see places, like The Pavilion in the photo. If a week, I can afford to take my time and start with the ordinary sights. That’s what I did with Brighton and Hove.

IMG_7003When I picked this city, I had vague thoughts of beach-combing and the scene in Downton Abbey where all the servants go to the beach on a short holiday.

Indeed, this city is all about the beach. It’s extensive and feels much like the Florida Coast of the US, going on as far as the eye can see. In contrast, the tiny beaches I visited on the Isle of Wight were more like the pocket beaches of the Big Island. But I was hoping for sand. The Brighton Beaches are all pebbles, and divided into sections by groynes to prevent washing away.

groynes and seashellWhen I say pebbles, I mean mountains of them. Climbing the hills of rocks felt much like climbing snow-hills: the rocks beneath my feet moved with the pressure and put me off-balance. So after two days of beachcombing and not finding anything, I quit. The sensory overload of seeing so many multi-colored rocks while fighting a headwind resulted in misplaced excitement when I saw even the odd bottle cap. But I won’t go home empty-handed. I did find a very nice, almost-complete shell.

Contrast IOW roads and Brighton streetsI love to walk city streets, just to look. In contrast to the small winding lanes of Cowes and the narrow rural roads on the Isle of Wight, Brighton streets have a “planned” feel to them with many broad and regular avenues. The little pig-paths of the original fishing village that began this community do remain in a shopping area called the Laines. These lanes are so small and twisted that I had to retreat soon after entering for fear of losing my way.

Hove sidewalk signsIMG_6863You can learn quite a bit about a community by observing the signage. Brighton and Hove seem to be partial to sign boards on the sidewalks. I loved the one advertising the Vision Board Workshop, and the bar that proudly said they had no Wi-Fi, just chit-chat. But I wasn’t too sure about the world’s first Internet connected hearing aid (talk about being too plugged-in!) and the fresh calf liver special. Apparently one shop only has a gluten free menu on Monday and Tuesday. I guess you go somewhere else the other days. And who ever heard of walk-in teeth cleaning? There’s a three month lead-time to get into my dentist!

gay pride postersI love the sense of inclusion and diversity in the city. Invitations to come into St. John’s Church where they hold a day center for the elderly, stood not far from a Labour MP’s office covered with gay pride posters. Looks like I missed the Gay Pride Parade by two days. Brighton makes the claim to be the Gay Capital of England.

Tesco innovationI always grocery shop the first day, no matter how many days I will be staying in a city. Perusing their main grocery chains is a great way to learn new things. A Tesco Supercentre was only two blocks from my flat. Besides all the different foods, I love their solutions to problems: they offer free fruit to children to keep them occupied while their parents shop; they offer to recycle plastic water filters, inkjet cartridges, batteries, and energy saving light bulbs; and finally, they have a boot on their carts (trollies) that prevent them from leaving the premises. I think these ideas have merit. Maybe US grocery chains are offering these innovations and I’m just not seeing them on the Big Island.

Dinosaur heads and cool chairs in quirky shopsThen there are the cool quirky shops. Of course everyone needs a dinosaur head skeleton on sale for £60, or choose the other one for £95. I also stopped in my tracks when I saw the black velvet chair. “Only” £400 and that doesn’t include shipping. The man in the shop called out, “Go ahead, sit in it. You know you want to…”

“Yes, I want to.” Then I repeated our standard family line: “But looking leads to wanting, wanting leads to buying, and buying lead to the poorhouse.” (I mentally examined the word ‘poorhouse.’ They used them extensively here.) I didn’t sit, but I asked if could take a picture.

backwards sale signAnd I loved the window of the little girl painting “Sale” backwards with two others saying, “Should we tell her?” and “I haven’t the heart.” Made me laugh and made me stop to look at the window. Smart merchandising.

grocer displayFinally, I have to admire the tenacity of the grocer who sets out this display of fruits and veggies every day. It was beautiful. I bought some cherries that lasted me all week. By the way, what are cobnuts and physalis? Travel always makes me grow.

IMG_6837Only after walking around my own neighborhoods, do I set out to explore the famous sights of a city. I’ll save that for a later essay. Stay tuned.

 

Other posts from this trip to England:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in beachcombing, enjoying other cultures, learnng new things, Personal growth, Travel, travel as a transformation tool | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Near East house and portraitsCowes is Osborne House, the summer home of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children. It was magnificent, more a palace than a house. They bought the property, tore down the existing house, and designed and built this house as a retreat from royal residences and their associated duties. This was to be their place, stamped with their character and tastes. Queen Victoria died here in 1901.

ground floor Osborne HouseWe were able to see most of the ground floor, with its formal rooms, maze of hallways filled with paintings and sculptures, and a large chandelier worthy of Dale Chihuly.

Servants work areaI liked the basement where we saw portions of the servants’ area including pantry, a room where table dressers designed bouquets for the dining tables upstairs, and a room to create seating arrangements and plan/execute all of the details required to put on a royal dinner, whether small or banquet size.

nurseryOn the upper floors we saw the nursery, Queen Victoria’s bedroom and changing room, Prince Albert’s private room, left just as it was when he died at age 41, and their joint office. Queen Victoria painted and she also spun wool: we saw her paintings and spinning wheel. I like to think these pastimes were her own form of physical meditations.

Banquet roomThe final section of the house we saw was a wing that Queen Victoria added for her daughter Beatrice, who raised her own children at Osborne House. The wing included a grand dining room for banquets on the ground floor. This was the most ornate room in the whole house. It was surprising to us that nothing was roped off in the room – you could get as close as you desired.

place setting, banquest roomIt was while my sister was inspecting the tableware closely, that she suddenly sneezed, losing her gum in the process. We both looked in horror at the table – where was that gum? Surreptitiously we looked under the edge of the plates, in the goblets, and even in the flower arrangement. Nothing.

dining table in banquest roomBeginning to panic, we looked on the floor. There it was! On the rich wool carpet! Thank God neither of us had stepped on it. Still having not invited scrutiny from the guard, she calmly picked it up with a tissue, and we quickly walked out the door to an outside patio overlooking a formal garden.

formal garden behind Osborne HouseAt this point we doubled over in laughter – the kind we used to try to suppress in church when we were not supposed to be giggling. The more we tried to stifle it, the more we laughed until tears ran down our cheeks. Talk about making memories!

That's my sister standing under the giant tree!

That’s my sister standing under the giant tree!

After breaking for lunch at the Osborne Café, we visited the part of the estate that fascinated me the most – the private beach. The Queen’s children apparently went there every day with the Governess to play and swim. Prince Albert and the Queen often went down to join them.

Osborne BeachIt was a 1.2 km walk through massive lawns, fields and along a wooded path. The view through the trees at the end revealed a changing tent, a Punch and Judy Puppet Theatre (we missed the last performance), an ice cream parlor, and of course, the sea.

Osborne Beach dipMany families were enjoying the beach and splashing in the water. As we approached it, one old guy teased us that we’d have to wear our wool bathing costumes to get in. Apparently not – several kids splashed around naked. I was pretty sure the water was no warmer than Lake Michigan in summer, a popular destination for us when we needed to cool off as kids. It looked so inviting, so I took off my shoes and socks, and carefully made my way over the many pebbles on the beach. Yup – as cold as Lake Michigan. I only waded around for a bit.

Of course, I did some beach combing. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to find some pottery shards from the time of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert? While a particular shell type kept fooling me, alas, I found none, though the sea glass was more plentiful than at other beaches on the island.

At least one Beatle was on the Isle of WightMy sister and I made many more fine memories on the Isle of Wight, just as the Beatles suggested in their song, When I’m 64, which was the impetus for our visit. And to prove that at least one Beatle actually did spent time here, I have evidence from a poster in the flat where we stayed.

Nancy and meNancy is heading back home at the end of our time on the Isle of Wight, and I’m going to Brighton by myself. But I’ll be laughing about The Gum Incident every time I think of it, and wishing she was still with me.

 

See other essays about this trip to England:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in Travel, Wisconsin family | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments