Beer (Need I say more?)

IMG_5797It was only about an hours’ drive on the morning of August 30th so it didn’t take me any time whatsoever to arrive at my hostel nestled in the East Devon Area of Natural Beauty and the charming and absolutely gorgeous fishing village of Beer!

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The charming hostel snuggled up on the hillside overlooking the town was (as usual) very conveniently located and quite inviting. I was a bit early for checking in, however, so I stowed my refrigerator items in the self-catering kitchen, headed down to the village below and got right to the task of exploring this fascinating little hamlet.

The place was pristine and every lane was adorned with beautiful examples of architecture made out of the local stone – chalk, flint, chert & sand. I worked my way down the winding streets and marvelled at how ingenious they were to incorporate the stream flowing downhill into the landscape serving as a handy watering hole for dogs as they wandered with their owners all the while adding its own rustic charm to the sidewalk

The shops were delightful to peer into with all manner of wonderful and artful items, but it was the architecture and the variety of buildings that really caught my attention. The wonderful thatched roofs for example.

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The numerous stone buildings of every ilk glowing in their respective hues of the rock they were built of or the tidiness of mortar and paint coupled together to create a piece of art just fascinated me.

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IMG_5820About halfway down the main street, I came upon this beautiful church and it beckoned me to peek inside.

IMG_5823Its interior was light and airy, the feeling of spring and hope emanating from every corner with its pink marble columns, honey-coloured pews and woodwork, and beautiful decorations adorning the walls.

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The church’s porch, lawns and garden beds were all ablaze with glorious blossoms.

Naturally, one would guess there might be an establishment (or two, or three) that specialized in beer, and you wouldn’t be disappointed. You can even “Have a Beer in Beer, from the Barrel of Beer!” (Try saying that real fast 3 times!)

At the bottom of the hill, the road ended at the pebbly beach below with all the fishing boats and gear, swimming areas, cliffs and vistas to die for.

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All of this wonderful scenery and fishing gear in abundance! I just had to stop at the local fish market at the landing and pick up something yummy for dinner tonight. How about some fresh scallops and pulled crab?IMG_5798

I took a different route on the way back up the hill to the hostel to put my dinner in the fridge. Along the way, I passed these tidy little fisherman cottages lined up in a row with respective gardens across from each one on the other side of the street.

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IMG_5860Just a mile away was the town of Seaton. The town itself wasn’t much to write home about but I sure enjoyed a nice stroll along the promenade.

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IMG_5865A bit further east of Seaton the Axe River flows into the sea at Axe Yacht Club. I loved the way the currents of the river and ocean combined swirled the rounded rocks into a fascinating formation. Kind of reminded me of a seahorse.

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IMG_5880Working my way from the bottom of the Haven Cliffs to the yacht club, I met this beautiful collie who just loved having to find the rock his owner just threw! Isn’t he just a stunning animal?

IMG_5878IMG_5887Having worked up quite an appetite I made my way back to the hostel and prepared that wonderful fresh seafood so patiently waiting for me. What a scrumptious meal that was!

After dinner, I couldn’t resist one more trip down to the waters edge for a little contemplation and relaxation.IMG_5889IMG_5890Another perfect day to be thankful for, filled with beautiful ocean vistas, scrumptious bounty from the sea, outstanding examples of stone architecture and beautiful blossoms everywhere. I could easily spend a few days in this lovely nook.

Early the next morning I packed up my belongings, however, and headed out with the rising of the sun. Before leaving this beautiful area, I wanted to explore another little cove just a couple of miles west which I had learned about from some fellow travellers staying at the hostel. From the way they described it, I definitely didn’t want to miss seeing it.

It was tucked down a narrow canyon that twisted and turned on a one-track road and at the bottom, this treasure, Branscombe, appeared.IMG_5900

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The loop trail into the canyon looked very intriguing and promised to provide some beautiful gems as far as geology was concerned. I’ll definitely return to this place and plan on spending a lot more time doing so!  There was even this adorable thatched roof building right on the beach that I’m sure has quite a menu of wonderful delights to enjoy after walking in the stunning surrounding acres with gorgeous views…ahhhh….I am definitely to return another time.

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It was time to hit the road once again though since I had quite a few miles to cover that day. That’s the last stop in England and what a beauty it was. Next, I headed to Wales to explore that mythical land for the next 9 days. Oh boy! We’re in for a real treat!

Until next time…

Speaking of which, I won’t be writing another post for at least a couple of weeks. I’ve been home now back in Oregon for over a month and trying to get caught up with the blog posts sharing my stories of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen and experienced.

That itch to head down the road doesn’t take me long to want to scratch, however, so I’m off again! I’m headed down through the length of California to La Jolla Shores, getting to visit friends and lots of family members along the way; cousins, sisters, aunts & uncles – the whole gang – and before the weather turns sour and the holidays are a mad rush!

But I’ll be back, you can count on that, armed with many more exciting and fun travel stories to share. Until then… happy trails!

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Swanage & the Jurassic Coast

Driving map (2)Another fine day on the southern coast of England presented itself with a bright sunrise on August 29th. The road beckoned so I drove out of Brighton driving due west with the destination of Swanage in mind about 90 miles away.

I was following along the base of some hills in South Downs National Park bordering my route on the right; the ocean to my left. I had only travelled about 20 miles when I noticed I needed some fuel for the car. I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of some castle towers peeking out over the treetops just beyond the next exit at Arundel. “Looks like the perfect place to find some gas, go for a walk to stretch my legs in the fresh morning air, and what better place to do that – around the grounds of a castle!  Perfect! This exit looks like it has everything I need and could want!”IMG_5648

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Arundel Castle

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A lot of pathways to follow, according to the map above, and a wonderful subject for an impromptu photo shoot wouldn’t you say? I didn’t really have time to take the guided tour of the inside of the castle, especially since it appeared to be quite extensive and lengthy but it’s supposed to be a very interesting tour. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy walking around the grounds and taking photos of this magnificent and impressively formidable castle.

IMG_5683According to the castles’ website, “There are nearly 1,000 years of history at this great castle, situated in magnificent grounds overlooking the River Arun in West Sussex and built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.”

It has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.

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IMG_5661This was the site of the original Norman castle. The oldest feature is the Motte, an artificial mound, over 100 feet high from the dry moat, and constructed in 1068. It would have had a wooden structure built on top of it in the beginning.IMG_5664

After the Motte was built, next came the gatehouse two years later in 1070.
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Bevis was a great giant of ancient times, and who, as legend has it, agreed to be the warder of the gate of Arundel Castle. It is said that the Bevis Tower was built to accommodate him.

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Bevis Tower

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Hmmm…lions guarding the drawbridge at Bevis Tower; better turn around and go the other way! Eventually, I worked my way back to the courtyard near the front of the castle where the door to enter is located and where the tour inside begins.

Course, I didn’t buy a ticket to go inside, so I just chatted with the guard at the door for a few minutes and then started back down to the entrance gates at the bottom of the hill.

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IMG_5677As I made my way back down, I came upon the rose garden off to the right. I had been so busy looking at the castle on the way up earlier, I hadn’t even noticed there was a garden! Imagine that, me missing a garden! That’s strange, indeed! I can’t imagine how I didn’t smell the aromatic fragrance of their blooms! It was superb; the blossoms filled the air with their profuse perfume in every direction!

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I felt a bit hungry after that nice walk so I decided to stroll through the village outside the castle walls to see what I might find to snack on. The ‘square’ on High Street offered up a wide variety of places to choose from and several items to tempt my tastebuds!

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That small ‘square’ had every kind of shop imaginable including the Butcher,

the Baker…

and where is that Candlestick maker? Okay, no candles that I can see but I’ll take one of those yummy looking puff pastries with the caramelized apple slices in it, please!

Across the street from the Baker on the left side of the street was a delightful little “second hand” shop with all kinds of wonderful things. Once inside, every room on each level of this very old and rickety building was filled with treasures galore to explore!

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It’s probably a good thing my suitcase wasn’t big enough to take all I would have liked, especially that toy horse on wheels!

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On the way back to the car I spotted some really cool old lace and pretty pottery too!

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The drive west took me through South Hampton, a bustling port, and down through the New Forest National Park lands down into Bournemouth where I hugged the coastline until I came to a small ferry which crosses the narrow channel near Brownsea Island and takes cars & cyclists over to the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. (Phew! That’s a mouthful!)

It was a cute little ferry that took about 5 minutes to cross the channel over to the nature reserve where the eastern edge of the Jurassic coastline begins.IMG_5713IMG_5714

Not much further to go now, only about 6 miles to Swanage! I wondered what it had in store for me. As I came down the road, it turned near the water’s edge following along a pebbly beach filled with colourful beach chairs & umbrellas. Families were frolicking and splashing in the blue-green water beyond as I entered this little seaside village by the bay.IMG_5763

IMG_5729Across town and slightly up the hill behind it, I found the Swanage Youth Hostel that I would call home for the night. This elegant Victorian house offered fine views across that beautiful bay.

As the sign states, Captain John Anderson, of the SS Great Eastern, built this villa with the proceeds he received for laying the first-ever transatlantic cable from Ireland to America. It’s a nice homey type of place; beautiful wood panelling in the living room, spacious and it has a really comfortable feel about it; thanks, Captain John!

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Before descending back down to the seashore, I noticed a sign pointing uphill from the hostel to a castle! Think I’ll go check it out!

Durlston Castle was a small structure perched on the cliff overlooking the English Channel looking south toward France. The land it sits on, The Durlston National Nature Reserve, is perfect for exploring the Jurassic Coast, a newly designated World Heritage Site that tells a geological story covering 200 million years. Find the Dinosaur footprints! The castle has all kinds of exhibits set up for this very purpose! What I enjoyed the most, however, was the panoramic views from it offered!

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Like Brighton Beach, Swanage is an activity-packed seaside holiday location, but much more relaxed, kicked-back and low key; a bit more my style. It boasts a safe sandy Blue Flag beach, spectacular coastal scenery, high sunshine ratings and festivals galore. After looking at the ocean from above, I decided to head down to the bay and get my tootsies in the water. It looked so inviting!IMG_5748

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Then I started walking along the edge of the bay toward the beach on the other end to see what wonderful treasures this sunny and inviting village would unveil.

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Across the pavement from the beach in a pedestrian-only zone, there were little huts lined up one after the other with colourful doors and which reminded me of storage units one rents to keep ones’ extra stuff in. Turned out they were storage units of sorts. These people keep all of their beach gear here; the BBQ, chairs, tables, cups, silverware, floaties and whatever else one needs for visiting the beach. They rent these coveted units year round. That way they have everything they need, including a refrigerator & microwave, when they head to the beach to play! Ingenious!

Beyond the seashore, I ventured into the inner streets browsing the shops in town…

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Which included a quaint little train station…

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As a finale, I went up to the Grand Hotel perched on the cliff above the beach on the opposite side of the bay from where I started. It was a very nice place and had some gorgeous views of the bay and village beyond. Bet it looks really nice at night with the lights reflecting on the waters’ surface.

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IMG_5780It was great fun exploring this lovely seaside village. I liked the way it was cozy, relaxed, and had a low-key ambience.

I easily settled in nicely for the evening after all that walking, enjoyed a nice fresh fish supper, and relaxed on the veranda at the villa (er…I mean, hostel).

 

 

 

Traveling West Along the Southern Coast of England – White Cliffs of Dover to Brighton Beach

On the beautiful crisp morning of August 28th, I rose early, grabbed my belongings after making myself some scrambled eggs & bacon, climbed in the car and proceeded to enjoy a very nice morning ride through the orchards and farms, all traffic-free mind you, from Canterbury to the coastline at Dover. (Dover is represented by Point A on the right side of the map below.)

My desired destination for the day was Brighton Beach (Point B), and I was hoping I would arrive by early afternoon since it was only about 75 miles away. “It should be a nice, leisurely drive following the coastline.” I thought.driving mapFor the next three nights while I continued to travel west, I would be spending just one night in each location; Brighton, then Swanage and finishing up with the little town of Beer! Mmmm…sounds refreshing!

Each town had a hostel that I pre-booked. I was anxious to see what they had in store for me! It’s always such a treat to arrive, see the building and get a feel for its locale. Although I’d seen pictures of the hostels online when I booked, it’s never quite like it is when it’s “live and in person.” Almost always, better!

I drove the short distance from Canterbury down to St. Margaret’s Bay at the eastern boundary of the famous white chalky cliffs. There is a really nice State Park at the edge of the small cove and I was greeted by several camping families waking up from their caravan campers and preparing their breakfast on an open fire along the pebbled beach. (I didn’t take any pictures of them, however; I know what I look like when I have just woken up. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate my photo being taken, posted on a blog looking like that and frightening everyone!)IMG_5539It certainly would be a nice place to wake up in, however, and so picturesque. I walked along as far as I could in both directions and soaked in the scenery and the salty smell of the ocean.

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The morning was getting away from me and I felt like I needed to go down the road further, so I drove back up the steep, narrow and winding canyon road to the top of the bluff and drove a short distance west to the city of Dover and it’s huge harbour.

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Just to the east of the city is the National Trust site – the “White Cliffs of Dover.” I drove up to the ticket window, showed my membership card and quickly found a convenient parking place right next to the trailhead leading out along the edge of the cliffs.IMG_5545It’s quite an extensive area to explore, complete with lighthouses and even tearooms to enjoy as well. (I’ve realized that there is never a tea room too far away in the UK, even in the remotest areas where I least expect to find one!)

One could walk for miles in this vast area that once held a prison, barracks and has witnessed a lot of history in the making over the centuries. I walked along the cliff trail for a while enjoying the sweeping and iconic views.IMG_5556

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After my cliff hike, I drove down into, and through, the busy town of Dover venturing further west hugging the coastline through small towns and villages along the way, stopping now and then to take in their splendid vistas.IMG_5558Soon, however, I noticed that the traffic had increased ten-fold and I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the remainder of my journey to Brighton. It ended up taking me a lot longer than I had thought it was going to take and although it was leisurely, very leisurely, in fact, it wasn’t all that pleasant.

What I hadn’t realized was that this was the last bank holiday of the summer season, just like it was at home in the USA with Labor Day weekend. Everyone in southern England was headed to the same place I was – their favourite seaside holiday destination!

Brighton was also a much bigger town than I had imagined, more like a city, and I kept driving down into the heart of it until I reached the famous pier perched on its seashore. Right across the street from that famous pier was the hostel! What a super location and it’s an old historic Victorian hotel!IMG_5560

front door of Brighton YHAThe Royal York has been a feature in the city since it first opened in Steine Place as a hotel in 1819. It was named after the Duke of York, brother of the Prince Regent, and was the first of the new large-scale hotels in Brighton at the time. It had one hundred beds, and became the most fashionable venue in town with concerts and recitals given in the public rooms; the first Tradesmen’s Ball was held there in 1823.

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Inside it was quite massive and had been remodelled just a few years ago, reflecting a more modern tone. It had a really nice self-catering kitchen tucked back in the corner and a nice dining room and bar for meals and refreshments. Everything I could ask for!

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Best of all it was located directly across the street from the seashore and the iconic Brighton Pier. As soon as I was properly checked in, I wandered back outside into the hustle and bustle of merry-making on the beach and promenade along its never-ending length. IMG_5570To say that everybody, and their brother, was there was an understatement.  Everybody, their brother AND their brother-in-law was there! People everywhere! So much fun to watch and be amused with for hours!IMG_5571People were enjoying themselves in every fashion; swimming, sunbathing, riding bicycles, walking their dogs, skating, playing on the pier, fishing, riding carousels – you name it! One could hear the gleeful giggles of children for miles!

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IMG_5583IMG_5584I mused while looking at the lifeguard tower and wondered how long it must take the lifeguard to get down those spiral steps and over to the water to save a drowning victim. Too bad they didn’t have a fireman’s pole attached to the crow’s nest so they could just slide right down in seconds! Or how about a slide down to the water’s edge right over the sunbather’s heads?

After getting my fill of people watching for a while, I meandered back across the boulevard and walked into the old town to see what other gems could be found. That’s when I stumbled upon the Palace!

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It’s a shame I was only there for one night; the History Pass above sounded like quite a good deal! Unfortunately, since it was a national “holiday,” the Royal Pavillion employees were also enjoying a ‘day off’ and so the tours inside were closed. I was only able to enjoy its splendour from the exterior. I hear it’s quite magnificent inside with its Chinese motif. Perhaps another time…for now I would enjoy the beautiful Indian architecture on the outside.

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IMG_5607The light was beginning to get low in the sky so I worked my way back toward the beach; stopping off at the hostel on the way for a bit of refreshment (lemon cake and whisky)  before I strolled along the shoreline promenade as the sunset appeared upon the horizon.

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Further down the promenade I noticed a large pole-like structure and asked an elderly local couple walking their dog what it was. They explained that it’s the newest addition to the amusement choices at the seashore; the British Airways i360.

Similar to the “Eye” in London, it has a glass ‘doughnut-shaped’ viewing platform wrapped around the pole and it rises to its’ full height, some 400 feet in the air, offering a 360-degree view of the surrounding coastline and countryside stretching inland toward London.

As I walked closer, the “doughnut” began rising. I arrived at its base just in time to purchase a ticket for the last flight of the day – after dark! Ooooh! This is going to be fun!

As we watched the spectacular colours appear in the sky and waited on the flight deck while it made its descent, a happy young couple nearby enjoyed some nice big lounge chairs.

IMG_5628Soon the pod was at the bottom and descending underground where the occupants would disembark into the gift shop below.

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Once the passengers disembarked below deck, it rose back up where we waited and then we were allowed to board.

Soon thereafter it started its gradual and very smooth climb to the top, offering beautiful views of the coastline below. One barely noticed it was moving at all.

At the very top, the view was quite outstanding!

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Back down on ground level, I meandered along the promenade back toward the pier which was all lit up now in all its glory.

IMG_5641IMG_5646It’s no wonder families and kids of all ages love coming to this delightful seashore destination and have done so for centuries. One certainly would not get bored in this atmosphere! I know I wasn’t!

Canterbury

Nothing says Canterbury like the Cathedral! Once I arrived in town in the afternoon of August 27th, I made my way on foot through the twisty-turny, pedestrian-clad streets of the well-preserved and bustling old town to find its iconic centrepiece.

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In the heart of the city, the tower gate to the cathedral grounds loomed large; a masterpiece to behold all by itself!

As I wandered into the cathedral grounds from the gate, taking in its grandeur, it began to sing… (Note: the video below is a bit wiggly because I was walking as I filmed it, (sorry) but it’s worth it to hear the bells ring just the same…)

Unfortunately, there was a lot of restoration work being done on the magnificent structure and the interior was closed for tours. That didn’t stop me from admiring it from the outside, as well as a little bit of the interior wherever we were allowed to peek in ever so briefly.

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Below are some photos I was able to get shots of inside some of the various parts of the interior.

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The sign below is a layout of the cathedral as seen from the backside (or East); it has so many elements in every direction you look! Details, details, details!

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I continued to wander around its “backside,” from left to right, as shown in the diagram above, making my way gradually all around its exterior.

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Once I passed through the arched doorway in the wall, a labyrinth of hallways, doorways and stairways opened up before me for exploration…

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There was this one arched opening which intrigued me and I was delighted to find it opened out into a lovely little sunlit garden. What a wonderful little respite for the inhabitants (and visitors) to enjoy.

Back into the labyrinth and continuing onward, the cloisters appear on my path and welcome me into their embrace.

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Followed by the Chapter House…

Having circumvented the entire massive building, and enjoying every step and minute along the way, I headed back toward the gates I entered through and strode through winding my way back to the car park. Time to find the hostel I’d be spending the night in.

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The YHA Canterbury wasn’t far at all; in fact just up the street from where I had parked the car in the car park and was quite easy to find. It was a delightful old historical and refurbished Victorian villa with a lot of charm! I like this place. Feels like I’m coming home!

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One of the big bonuses I enjoy about staying at hostels is the fellow guests I get to meet who are from all over the world. On this occasion, I had the pleasure of meeting one such fella, John Cawley, from the town of Deal which was about 10 miles away on the coast just north of the cliffs of Dover.

After visiting for awhile and enjoying a nice chat, I discovered he was in the middle of making plans to catch a train, which connected to a bus line, which would take him to his home at the seashore. Since I was so close to the southern shoreline of the UK and hadn’t had a seashore fix for at least 4 days straight while travelling to towns inland, I asked him if he’d like me to just give him a ride in my car instead. I told him I wanted to head down to the beach anyway and perhaps he could point out some interesting places as we went. He wholeheartedly agreed, offered to pay for some gas and off we went. We had a great time together doing just that.

One place that he took me to was the quaint & upscale – yet quiet and unpretentious -village of Kingsdown.  Parts of the village are built on or behind the shingle beach that runs north to Deal and beyond, while other parts are on the cliffs and hills inland.

 

It has a wonderful long-stretching pebbly beach which ends at the northern edge of the Cliffs of Dover.

There is a wonderful little brewery a friend of his owns right there on the beach, so we sat and enjoyed a cool glass of refreshment while we watched the families frolicking on the beach and the English Channel panoramically spread out before us.

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At the end of a perfect afternoon and after dropping John off at his place in Deal, I headed back to the hostel in Canterbury and then walked to the nearby grocery store to stock up on some essentials for making breakfast in the morning.

Much to my delight when I returned to the hostel and was putting my items away in the kitchen fridge, there were a couple of young men cooking a huge pot of yummy smelling burritos for a large group of male teenagers from Germany who were all travelling on a long-distance bicycle run together.  They had prepared so much extra food that after the boys had eaten all that they needed; they ended up also feeding the rest of the guests, like myself, who were staying at the hostel as well! What a treat and what a nice group of young men to share a meal with!

I settled into the comfortable folds of a couch in the living room after a very filling dinner of burritos, chatted with my new friends while I downloaded my plethora of pictures off of my iPhone from the day’s adventures and then headed upstairs to sleep – calling it a day, plopping my head down on the pillow and feeling thankful for such great new friends, beautiful shoreline vistas and the glorious grandeur of the oldest cathedral in England to behold.

 

 

Savouring the Delights of the Historical University City of Cambridge

Saturday, the 26th of August, proved to be a lovely day for driving along the pristine and unspoiled countryside of England. I only had to travel about 100 miles south to my next destination, Cambridge.  I’ve been here once before a couple of years ago and was looking forward to returning. There is so much to see and do in this fascinating University-laden city with its rich intricacy of Gothic architecture. Its claim to some of the world’s greatest minds (Milton, Darwin, Hawking, etc.) is mind-boggling!

IMG_5184I arrived at the conveniently located YHA Cambridge hostel near the train station and got settled right in. This was the first hostel I had ever stayed at when I toured two years ago and it holds a special place in my heart because it welcomed me and introduced me to the world of hosteling which I have grown to love immensely!

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Botanic Garden & Hostel neighborhoodAs you can see on the map above, the hostel (upper right-hand corner) and the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens (lower left) are just a couple of blocks from one another. Trumpington Road, which borders the garden on its western edge, leads straight north into the heart of the oldest part of the city a short distance away.

During my first visit, I did not have enough time to meander through the Botanical Gardens so this time I put it first on my list! I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I think it is one of the most beautiful and extensive botanical gardens I’ve ever visited!

BOTANICAL GARDEN MAP

We owe the existence of this garden, occupying a 40-acre site, to John Stevens Henslow, the Professor of Botany at Cambridge from 1825 – 1861. He laid out the garden in 1846 to accommodate a wonderful tree collection, but he also planted his ideas about ‘variation and the nature of species’ that would be taken up in a new and revolutionary fashion by his famous protege, Charles Darwin.

I entered the garden through the Station Road gate and began following the meandering pathways throughout discovering jaw-dropping vistas and colourful displays of flora along the way.

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The Glasshouse held a wide variety of beautiful specimens from various climates to behold.

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More paths to follow took me past glorious blooms and bursts of colour!

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The school’s garden shop even offered up some whimsical and cheery yard art!

I kept following the intriguing pathways to see where they led through bamboo tunnels and past giant specimens of some very special trees like Britain’s Dawn Redwood!

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This place was vast and never ceased to amaze me with its variety at every turn. In the big grassy areas, there were all kinds of interesting herbaceous beds laid out in unusual patterns. I really liked the way they made circular and oblong beds scattered throughout the large lawns. I think this would look great, and work quite effectively, in my front yard lawn at home, only on a smaller scale, of course! You have to look closely to see it in the picture, but the second-to-last photo in the photo collage below shows how they staked out the beds and strung string between the posts to outline the new beds.

Ingenious! I love the way they used the space and didn’t create rigid corners in a ‘formal’ type of planting. So much more interesting and fun to wander through and around.

I ventured past two locals, a mother and daughter, painting flowers in the garden and had a nice chat with those two lovely local ladies before continuing on.

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IMG_5356The path meandered on through more beautifully and artfully set plantings, eventually leading me back to where I started. What a delightful way to spend the first part of the morning!

After all that walking and traversing through garden paths, I’m ready for a little cruising! I’m going to enjoy lazy summer punting on the River Cam!

If anything is stereotypical ‘Cambridge,’ this is it. Punting involves being propelled in a long wooden boat by pushing a pole against the shallow river bottom as you glide effortlessly down the river.

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Another great feature of the hostel is that it offers discount tickets to activities such as punting! Armed with my ticket I found my way to Scudamore’s Boatyard Punt Station and climbed right aboard – no waiting in line!

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We glided along the “Backs” of all the major Universities: King’s College, Trinity, St. John’s, etc., passing underneath its wonderful bridges like the Mathematical Bridge, Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s and turned around at the Magdalene Bridge to make our way back.

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IMG_5293Nearing the end, as if on queue, this swan appeared alongside the boat and graciously escorted us back to the punting station where we originally boarded. What a wonderful and delightful outing. A definite must see – must do kind of activity!

IMG_5401I really wanted to continue touring around the rich gothic architecture of the Universities and the winding streets of the city’s centre but didn’t want to walk.

What better way to see the city than riding a bicycle like the locals. Most of the city centre’s streets are closed off to vehicular traffic and are pedestrian-only anyway. It’s such a lovely,  relaxing and fun way to take in the sights.

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Cambridge University has many famous alumni, including mathematicians such as Sir Isaac Newton, philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and writers such as John Milton and Lord Byron. It was the site of Rutherford’s pioneering work in nuclear physics as well as Crick and Watson’s DNA work. Cambridge academics have won more Nobel Prizes than those of any other university in the world.

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And there are also a few others that are not quite so famous…

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To top off a perfect day exploring the beauty and history of Cambridge, a glorious sunset adorned the western skyline! What more could I ask for? I feel so grateful to have had such a perfect day exploring this wonderful city and discovering more of its many treasures.

The next morning I drove further south to a town made famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, another university city which boasts some of England’s finest medieval architecture, including one of its oldest cathedrals. However, as I have said before, that’s another story for yet another day!

 

 

 

 

 

Sherwood Forest – Land of the Legendary Robin Hood

I woke up peacefully on the morning of August 25th in York. Because I didn’t have a long distance to drive to my next destination, I was able to leisurely eat my breakfast, help a fellow traveller from the hostel get to the train station on time and then head south in the trusty rental car to the town of Edwinstowe near Sherwood Forest.

Ever since I was 9 years old, I’ve been fascinated with old castles and legends from medieval times, particularly Robin Hood. Why the age of 9? Well, one day when I was 9, I had been riding my bicycle around a parking lot across the street from my house pretending I was a race car driver. I had been going just a wee bit too fast as I rounded one of the debris-filled corners. The wheels of my bike went out from underneath me and I ended up sprawled out all over the pavement having rolled a few times, scrapeing my legs and arms. Ouch! That hurt and it hurt really bad.

Still, I managed to get myself up, walk across the street, leaving my bicycle where it lay, and walked into the house calling, “MOM!” I was scraped up pretty bad as I recall; both sides of both legs & arms as a matter of fact. She promptly put me in a tepid bath and then gingerly and ever-so-carefully, picked out the small rocks and goat-head stickers and other small pieces of debris the Mojave desert is famous for, from the scraped up raw flesh of my limbs. Afterward she put me in bed and kept me home from school for about a week until my open scrapes healed over.

After the first day or so, and when the pain and shock subsided, I got pretty bored just lying there in bed, so she brought me a big old thick book to read, Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe.” I got so enthralled in that story – the rest of the week just flew by!

It was the first novel I had ever read; the first real genuine adult-type book without a bunch of pictures filling up the pages! I was impressed that I actually read the whole thing and found that it inspired me to want to read more. It also piqued my interest in all things really, really old and my very first “hero” appeared on the scene – the legendary Robin Hood!

ClaudiaLouiseage9When I was planning the itinerary for this 4 1/2 month trip, my route was originally planned to go from York directly to Cambridge. I noticed, however, that Sherwood Forest was right along the path I was intending to follow.

How could I NOT stop and indulge the freckle-faced, hair-in-braids, 9-year-old little girl within? I just had to go!

Upon arrival at the YHA Sherwood Forest Hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to find a brand new building which was very cozy, and particularly handy, because it sits, literally, right on the edge of the park! It couldn’t be more convenient! I could just park my car (for free!) and walk to everything I wanted to see and experience.

I spent the afternoon following most of the trails traversing through Sherwood Forest, taking in the beautiful sights, imagining the antics of outlaws around the woods, and let that youthful 9-year-old imagination run wild all the while. It was fun!

Upon my return to the hostel, I enjoyed a very nice home-cooked meal, Bangers & Mash, followed up by a scrumptious cake thingy dessert with custard pudding! Even ended up having the whole female 4-bed dorm room to myself for the night!

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Walking through the forest was a special treat. This 450-acre park is the last remaining part of the old Sherwood Forest of medieval times. It has one of the best examples of oak and birch woodland in the country and has an important and unique wildlife habitat.

The name ‘Sherwood’ was first recorded in 958AD when it was called Sciryuda, meaning ‘the woodland belonging to the shire.’ It became a Royal hunting forest after the Norman invasion of 1066 and was popular with many Norman kings, particularly King John and Edward I. The ruins of King John’s hunting lodge can still be seen near the Nottinghamshire village of Kings Clipstone.

‘Forest’ was a legal term, meaning an area subject to special Royal laws designed to protect the valuable resources of timber and game. Laws were strictly and severely imposed by agisters, foresters, wardens and rangers, who were all were employed by the Crown.

In the 1200s, popularly thought to be the time of Robin Hood, Sherwood covered about 100,000 acres, which was a fifth of the entire county of Nottinghamshire. The main London to York road, the Great North Way, ran straight through Sherwood and travellers were often at the mercy of robbers living outside of the law. Hence the name ‘outlaw.’

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The largest oak tree in England, perhaps in the world, this famous tree – the Major Oak – has withstood lightning, the drying out of its roots and even a fire. The hollow tree has a circumference of 10 meters and the spread of its branches makes a ring 85 meters around.

The cavity in the trunk is 2 meters in diameter and it is said that Robin Hood, and some of his men, used to hide here. Because many thousands of visitors were compacting the soil around it, the tree had to be fenced off to preserve it in order that water could still penetrate its roots and keep it alive and well. Branches have become so heavy they are also propped up to keep them from breaking off.

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What a beautiful and scenic forest to walk through. It’s just the way I imagined it would be. Funny how that works!

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There’s even a 105-mile walking path which meanders through the nearby countryside following the footsteps of Robin that one can take if one so desires. I didn’t walk it; it was a bit more than I had allowed time for. Sounds like a great walk, however. You can check it out at the following link: Robin Hood Way
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After that wonderful woodland walk, I headed toward the village of Edwinstowe in the other direction from the hostel passing St. Mary’s Church along the way.

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As I walked around the church and amongst its many headstones, I kept an eye out for any bearing the name of Sherwood. I didn’t find any but was hoping I might. One of my ancestors, Thomas Sherwood, emigrated from this town to Connecticut in 1634. He was a 9th great grandfather.

The town of Edwinstowe, which is just outside of the forest boundaries, gets its name from King Edwin. The Anglo-Saxon word ‘stowe’ means special, or holy place. King Edwin was the first Christian King of Northumbria; a kingdom which stretched from Edinburgh as far south as the River Trent.

His reign ended when he was killed at the nearby Battle of Heathfield in 633. His body was buried (temporarily) here at the church and later, the site was deemed to be holy by the people because Edwin was a Saint. A wooden chapel was built and it became known as the place of Edwin, or Edwinstowe. They still celebrate St Edwin’s day each year on October 12th.

Edwinstowe has all kinds of interesting buildings to behold and lovely little shops and pubs to wander in and out of. Here are a few examples of what lies on either side of the main drag, High Street, as I walked down into the small village.

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Robin Hood Holiday Cottage

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Lots of beautiful floral displays graced the colorful shop fronts…

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And of course, artistic statutes of Robin Hood and Maid Marion grace the centerpiece of this delightful village at Robin Hood Plaice.

I was so pleased I had included this stop. Such a pleasant and easy-to-get-around location and a real treat for the child within.

The park is beginning construction of a new visitor’s center directly across the lane from the hostel. It should make a big improvement over the existing facilities within the park that are a bit out-dated and seen better days. I didn’t include any photos of the shops and facilities because, quite frankly, they weren’t much to look at.

Just the same, I was amazed at how many people, especially families with children, visit this place. There was a plethora of little boys with bows and arrows donning Robin Hood hats throughout the grounds and young girls with conical Maid Marion hats as well. With newer, more modern facilities in the near future, I have a feeling they will be attracting many, many more visitors! Earlier in the summer, around mid-July they also host a Robin Hood Festival with parades, games, archery events, etc., which I am sure is quite a popular and fun event to attend.

Just next door to the hostel is a medieval craft centre, artisan shops, and great eateries too, including a big favourite, the Chocolate Factory. There’s something here for everyone!

I had a very restful sleep in this cozy respite amongst the trees. I woke feeling grateful that I had the opportunity to indulge the child within exploring the magical and mythical forest with her. A rare opportunity indeed!

The sun was shining brightly the following morning, coaxing me out for yet another adventure and a drive further down the road to a famous, and most-beloved, academic center – Cambridge!  We’ll explore that wondrous place in the next post.  Until then… hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse of the land of the legendary Robin Hood!

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Nothing Says Medieval Quite Like York

The morning of August 24th I arrived in the quirky and ancient city of York after a pleasant drive south for a couple of hours from Berwick-Upon-Tweed. I got checked into the YHA hostel (which was quite modern, spacious and very conveniently located), had a nice snack of fried shrimp and a salad and then checked my itinerary google map containing the list of things I hoped to visit in this delightful walled city.

Luck would have it there was a peaceful riverside walking pathway I followed which took me along the River Ouse. The trailhead was located just outside the hostel leading right into the heart of the city! Now that’s handy!

It lead me right up to the Lendel Bridge boat landing along the Dame Judi Dench walk.

There used to be a ferry at this location which took people from Barker Tower, on the south-west bank, to the Lendal Tower. Lendal Bridge is a cast iron bridge built in 1863 and has colorful Gothic style details all over it which were popular in the Victorian era. The ornate parapet features the white rose of York, the crossed keys of the Diocese of York and the lions of England. Additional ironwork includes York’s coat of arms and the initials V & A, representing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

judi dench walkAlso bordering the River Ouse at this point are the grounds of a 10-acre Botanical Garden and home to many ancient and ruinous Roman historical sights.IMG_4999

Let’s enter the gates to take a look around…

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Another very interesting ruin within the gardens was once the oldest and largest medieval hospitals – St. Leonards.

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Once inside the grounds of the hospital, I could also see the inside of the multangular tower I had just viewed from the outside a few minutes ago. This ancient Roman fortress is very impressive.

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After leaving the gardens, I started making my way along the twisted streets toward York Minster. Along the route, I came upon this ornately decorated Catholic church of St. Wilfrid on the left.

Architecture fascinates me and this city has a vast array of interesting and varied specimens. I am not a particularly religious person, but I certainly admire the people who are so devoted and highly respect them. However, I also really appreciate the craftsmanship and artistic talents of the masons who built the churches and the artists who decorated them with their fine paintings and statutes for example.
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Inside was equally ornate, including the ceiling!

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Even the organ was quite detailed with designs and colors!

IMG_5028Across the street, this brick building which houses solicitors just shouts, “Look at me!”11142418_971512042873493_8281101858849280746_nAt the end of the same street stands the magnificent York Minster. It’s a massive place and it’s quite difficult to get a photograph of its stature from up close, especially the entrance on the east end.York Minster

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It’s well worth the entrance fee to tour this stunning cathedral. Allow for quite a bit of time to do so as it is very, very large with many sights to behold. Just looking up at the ceilings makes me feel dizzy! If you’re lucky, as I was, the choir boys will enter and fill the acoustical chambers with a glorious song! It’s quite the experience.

Back outside once again, I discovered a statue of The Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, who was proclaimed Emperor at this site in 306 AD, just outside the doors to the Minster. Of course, the church wasn’t built until much later. Gothic style cathedrals arrived in the mid 12th century. Walter de Gray was made archbishop in 1215 and ordered the construction of a Gothic structure in York comparable to Canterbury and building began in 1220.

After that magnificent display of gothic architecture, I decided to roam the twisty-turny streets and peek inside some of the vast arrays of extremely interesting and colourful shops which seemed to go on forever!IMG_5068York has long been well renowned for its chocolate confectionaries and there are a plethora of ‘sweet shops’ and Tea Rooms around every corner that are hard to resist so why try?

I just fell in love with these beautiful petit-fours above and the little piggies in Betty’s Cafe & Tea Room when I stopped to get some bulk English tea for my granddaughter.IMG_5067It’s so entertaining just to roam the streets and take in the sights, smells and sounds.

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York is a fascinating city to visit. Its history is so multi-faceted: Romans, medieval times, Vikings, and its elements – chocolate & confections, railways, Opera, theatre, food, pubs, museums, etc. One could easily spend 4-5 days here and still barely see and visit the numerous sights it has to offer. It’s no wonder it is one of England’s top visitor attractions.

I saw as much as I could take in during one day and I certainly was not disappointed in the least. I know that each time I travel through England in the future, York will always be one of the stops on the itinerary as there will always be something else to explore that I haven’t seen yet!

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this place, it was time to move on down the road a bit further. The following day I packed up my belongings and headed to Sherwood Forest – the land of Robin Hood and Maid Marion.

But that’s another story for another day…hope you’ve enjoyed the stop at York. Until the next time…

 

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