Wednesday, April 11, 2018

England 2018, Day 5

On Tuesday we walked to St. Pancras Station to meet Nicky Smith for a day trip to Rye, a small town in East Sussex  about 90 minutes from London with many historic and literary associations.
Looking toward St. Mary's
It is two miles from the sea and has long been mentioned in the same breath with smugglers. Jane Aiken Hodge lived in nearby Lewes and is probably responsible for some of my historical reading about smugglers. Also well-known is a series of books, Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson, set in a town called Tilling which is based on Rye. A BBC miniseries based on the books was actually filmed in Rye. Author Henry James lived in Rye and Monica Edwards and Malcolm Saville have set series on Romney Marsh. More recently, Helen Simonson wrote The Summer Before the War which takes place in Rye in 1914, which I liked so much I chose it for my book group last year.  Downton fans would like it too!
The Mermaid Inn!

Rye is an extremely walkable town so long as one wears comfortable shoes and enjoys the picturesque. The gray day improved as we headed up the cobblestone path from the train station to Mermaid Street. Our first stop was the historic Mermaid Inn, known as the unofficial home of the notorious Hawkhurst gang, free traders (aka smugglers) who ruled the region through violence in the first half of the 18th century.
The famous bar of the Mermaid Inn
Mapp and Lucia's author
The Mermaid turned out to be very charming with traces of smoke from bygone fires or bygone nefarious deeds, perhaps. Nicky was a great traveling companion, having taken a vacation day to join us and bringing a map of Rye with her. She is always knowledgeable and it helps to have someone else who always wants to take a tea or wine break!
A Burne-Jones window!
Next, we visited the local church, St. Mary's, a lovely 900-year-old church that was interesting to stroll through. We admired the look of the tower but did not have the energy to climb it! The choir was practicing gently on one side of the church s we investigated a few racks of used books in a corner (we found a St. Clare's book for my niece Katherine and Nicky found a book for our friend Emily). Touring churches is hungry work! We lunched at the George on the High Street, a luxury hotel with what it calls a rustic bar and plush grill. The food was good although very messy and the service only adequate but the atmosphere was pleasant. No trip to Rye is complete without checking out the Rye Castle Museum (built 1249 as protection for raids by the French) which has a very attractive exterior although a bit disappointing inside.
The Rye Castle Museum
The weather had improved dramatically and touring museums is thirsty work! We found a place to sit outside the Hope Anchor Hotel and have a drink and enjoy the afternoon for a bit. Finally, we visited a charity shop (often the best place to find used books) and then spent half an hour in the Rye Book Store browsing. It looked like an independent but I became suspicious when I realized it was promoting all the same books as Waterstone's (despite liking Waterstone's). The staffer admitted the store is owned by Waterstone's but provided no explanation. There was even time for our fourth opportunity to imbibe before we took the train back to London. By the way, I had used the TicketClever to purchase these tickets (and also for Friday's jaunt) and was a little apprehensive but I punched the access code into a ticket machine at St. Pancras and out shot many orange tickets, so I saved a lot of money by using this website.
in the Castle
Castle count: one
Church count: two
Book count: three
Miles walked: 5.2


Lisa said...

Did you also keep an eye out for Our Claude and his cloak?

I am so enjoying your traveologue, while still also envying you both.

GSGreatEscaper said...

Gosh it sounds as if you are having a good time, hope all is well and safe travels.