The weather is absolutely gorgeous – low 70’s, windy, and sunny. It may turn dicey my remaining days here so I decided to take the train and head to the coast. I first considered Dover, but I’m a little tired of crowds, so I looked for someplace a little less touristy and decided on Eastbourne. There is a train from Victoria Station, and after working around Tube lines closed for repair, got to the station, acquired a ticket and boarded just as the train was leaving.
Upon departure, an announcer came on saying that, at some point, cars 1 – 8 would divide and go in one direction, and 9 – 12 would go in another and to “Please make sure you are in the correct car”. I didn’t have a map of southern England with me so had no idea where any of the cars were going. I was in car #7. 7’s a lucky number right? So I decided to stay put. Well as it turns out, 7 wasn’t a lucky number for me today. Later, they made an additional announcement stating that cars 1-4 would go to Eastbourne and to “please make sure you are in the correct car”. This is a country train so not really smooth. I got my “Sorry” and “Excuse me” responses ready and bumped my way forward 4 cars, hitting people in the head as I went. Just to be safe, I went to car #3. Whew!
After we passed the Gatwick Airport Station, the scenery was stunning – hills, forests, farms, and occasionally someone’s clothesline. One the right hand side of the train, I could see one of the Hill Carvings – the Long Man of Wilmington – which is a 225 ft. tall drawing carved into the hill down to the chalk. The train was going too fast so I stole this picture from the web. No one is sure about the origins of these carvings – there are several in this area. Some claim they are prehistoric – some, like this one, have been found on old Roman coins. Another of ancient England’s many mysteries.
A woman came down the train aisle and, I-swear-to-God, asked – “Anything from the trolley?” I, with difficulty, resisted the urge to ask for a chocolate frog and pumpkin pasty. (The Muggles reading this will be confused.)
The train to Eastbourne is just over an hour from London. It’s a nice little town, not too crowded. I followed the signs to the seafront and walked to the Pier. Like many of England’s old resort towns, it looks a little “tired”. A few years back, I was speaking at a conference in York, came early and stayed a few days in Folkestone, just north of here. The B&B owners said that these coastal towns have really been hit hard by the rise in gas prices, property costs, and the increase of cheap airfare to “the continent” (the rest of Europe). People can fly to Spain, Italy, or France, cheaper than taking a vacation in one of England’s coastal towns. All along the seafront here in Eastbourne are huge, beautiful old hotels. This is a picture of the Pier.
I bought a cup of cockles which are a small shellfish, like a clam. They serve them raw and I was sternly advised by the fishmonger to “put the pepper on first, then the vinegar, or else you get a mouthful of pepper and that’s not very nice.” Under his watchful eye, I did as instructed. What else could I do? It’s a good thing I like pepper and vinegar.
There’s a nice brick walk along the shore toward the chalky cliffs called Beachy Head. From the pier to Beachy Head is about 2 miles. The wind was at my back and it sounded like a good idea. Another walker took this picture – one of the few where my hair isn’t covering my face. It was REALLY windy! You can see the cliffs in the background.
At this part of the coast, the beach is made up of pebbles not sand. A little further east, toward Dover, it is shingle. A lot of people were sun-bathing – not too many sea-bathing. I doubt if the English Chanel ever gets very warm. At the end of the sea path, there’s a little café where I had something to eat. Then I was smart and paid the 2£ to take the little “Dotto Tram” back to the pier. I walked back to the train station, took the train to Victoria Station to learn the 4 more Tube lines weren’t operating. Not really a problem, other than the operating lines then were so crowded, I had to wait several times for the next train. Dinner back at the wine bar at La Gaffe again, windblown, but satisfied. It was a nice day.