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.

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Petworth Stately Mansion & Extensive Grounds

While still in West Sussex we went to visit Petworth, another National Trust property. As we walked the “extensive grounds” from the car park to the stately mansion I was reminded of a line in Jane Austen’s novel Emma: “People who have extensive grounds themselves are always pleased with any thing in the same style.” Well, I don’t have extensive grounds but still appreciated the 700-acre deer park surrounding the mansion that was designed and transformed by noted landscape architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

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Portsmouth, a Naval city

It was not easy to leave the Jurassic Coast; however, more adventures awaited us in Portsmouth, the second most densely populated city after London. Actually it wasn’t adventure that awaited us, but the adventures of others now preserved at the Historic Dockyards where we visited old ships and naval museums. But that was to happen the day after our arrival. On our first day in town we checked into our hotel, had an early dinner, and walked around the Portsmouth marina listening to the low, winsome song sung by a chorus of shrouds and stays. I felt restless and had an itch to stow away on the large white ferry preparing to set sail. Where were they going? Maybe Bilbao or Santandar, Spain; or ports in France like Le Havre or Cherbourg. But as I did not immediately act on my desire the ferry sailed out of Portsmouth Harbor without me, and we headed back to our hotel—and back to reality.

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Thomas Hardy: a love/hate relationship no more

Today we visited two more National Trust sites: Hardy’s Cottage, where Thomas Hardy, the author, was born; and Max Gate, the home he designed and lived in later in life. Had it not been for my sister’s interest in seeing the sites, I might not have visited the locations due to my love/hate relationship with Thomas Hardy’s literature, and I would have missed out on reading the interesting and at times witty correspondence from some of Max Gate’s most notable visitors.

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Corfe Castle & the Jurassic Coast

With Weymouth as our home base our first excursion was to Corfe Castle, also a National Trust site. Instead of following Spiteful Nelly’s directions, we chose a road closer to the Jurassic coastline, a designated UNESCO natural World Heritage Site as it is the only place on Earth where “185 million years of earth’s history is sequentially exposed in dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, coastal stacks, and barrier beaches.” However, the road was not close enough. Once in a while we had a glimpse of the ocean, but most of the time we had lovely views of rolling green countryside.

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Weymouth, My Kind of Town

When we arrived in the old-fashioned seaside town of Weymouth, the skies were gray and I was having trouble breathing. By the next morning the sun was shinning, and I felt great. We walked along the promenade enjoying views of the sea and the people who sat on the beach looking out at a tall ship unfurling its square sails. Dwarfed by its presence were a group of small sailboats, their triangular blue sails rounding their mark. This was my kind of town.

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Lush, Lavish, Stately Stourhead

We left the Cotswolds and drove south, skirting the town of Bath, which we had both seen before, heading for the 2,650 acre Stourhead estate, another National Trust Site. Although the estate was only a short forty-four mile drive away from our hotel, we had packed our bags and checked out as we ultimately were going to the Southern coast of England. We both left the Cotswolds with happy memories, and I also took with me a virus or an allergic reaction to sleeping on a down pillow or inhaling the smoke billowing out of the manor’s smokehouse—invisible pollutants that had silently seeped into our room while we were sleeping and preparing to leave. By the time we arrived at Stourhead I didn’t feel great, but I was excited to see the estate that when it opened in the mid 1740’s had been described as “a living work of art” due to the “world-famous garden, magnificent lake, classical temples, and mystical grottoes.”

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