Why Rye?

When we told our friends, who are English, that we visited Rye in East Sussex, their response was, “Why Rye?” And it is true the civil parish with a population of 4000 has no National Trust sites, no world-renowned museums, or mansions with extensive grounds; but it has historic charm and provided a pleasant—and most needed—stop on our way to Canterbury, Kent.

Originally the plan was to drive from West Sussex to Eastbourne, have lunch, and take a sea voyage to view the world famous Beachy Head, with its impressive white chalk cliffs, and then drive to Rye. However, when we arrived in Eastbourne (a seaside resort town) we suddenly were in a big city, with lots of traffic, and lots of people. After the peaceful beauty of the Cotswolds, the Jurassic Coast, and West Sussex we were not prepared for lots of visual noise. As we crawled along King Edward’s Parade (the B2103) past massive hotels and a multitude of restaurants and shops, we were stunned into silence. When the traffic finally moved and we had an option to head out of town, I told my sister, “Let’s get out of here!” She whole-heatedly agreed and we headed to Rye.

As we drove through the Landgate (the last remaining gate of Rye’s 14th century medieval wall) on the narrow cobblestone street on our way to our hotel, we knew walking was the best way to see the city. And that worked, as our only plans for Rye were to walk! After high tea, which left me stuffed, and my sister feeling guilty for having such a decadent lunch, we made our way past Medieval, Tudor, and Georgian buildings lining the cobbled streets where local merchants sold unique clothing, jewelry, toys, as well as art and photography. As we headed up the hill away from the High Street we saw Henry James’s “dear Old Lamb House,” where the author lived from 1898 until 1914. We ended the day with a great culinary find—a local restaurant, the George Grill, with a talented chef from Spain who prepared one of the tastiest bowls of Gazpacho I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

The next morning we woke to sunshine, and drove to Rye Harbour not for a sea voyage, but to walk through the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. It was a pleasant walk with views of the marshlands, the harbour, and the sea. And as it turned out, uncluttered, undeveloped land, and open sea views were exactly what my mind needed, as the past two weeks of seeing new sites and absorbing new information had exhausted my mind—which is ironic. One reason why I love traveling is to experience new sites and to learn new information—stimulus my brain desperately needs. However, there is a saturation point and I had reached it.

 

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