Category Archives: 2014 09 UK – South Coast

A Kingly, Kindly Port

After our fairytale ride in France we left early the next morning, Tuesday, September 16th, heading from Dover to Ramsgate. With little or no wind and barely any current in the marina (most likely due to the water control using gates), it was a cinch getting off, unlike other marina pontoons around here.

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We were escorted by two tugs. Actually, we just lined up between them as directed by the harbor control master.

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As is typical, the harbor was busy with ferries coming and going.

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Exiting the east end of the harbor we saw two of those heading towards France.

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Off to our port were the blazing white cliffs of Dover

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along with a lone fisherman tending his crab pots. It was turning into a beautiful day on the water.

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Our next destination, Ramsgate, was only 15 miles away so an easy day. With little wind but favorable current we made it within 3 hours. Tieing up at the visitors’ pontoon, we headed for the marina office. And, boy, were they a wonderful bunch: John, Ned, Collin and Sean. They were our personal welcoming committee, eager to get us settled and ensure we knew where to run errands, making us feel right at home. They obviously enjoyed their lives and one another.

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Ramsgate is the only Royal Harbor in England, designated as such by King George IV. Remember him? The big playboy of Brighton? The reason for this appellation: he was as taken with the hospitality in 1821 as we were in 2014. His niece Queen Vicky also liked it for she summered here on holidays.

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Heading for the street running along the harbor, we stopped for a pick-me-up, Max ordering his now favorite coffee libation: mochacchino.

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From there we continued east, touring the waterfront. As with seashore towns, boats of all sizes participated in the retrieval of British and French soldiers during Dunkirk; and, Ramsgate is home to one of these.

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Reviewing the map of the area we saw there was a Charles Dickens House just up the coast in Broadstairs. With the weather hitting high 70’s and a lovely coastal beach and boardwalk ahead of us, we decided to continue our stroll.

Walking along the beach it’s hard not to be awed by the crumbling cliffs,

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and, we found ourselves stopping every now and then to check out how well the bits of chalk write.

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The flint We even tried striking the flint to no avail, but we did bring some back to the boat just in case…

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Reaching Broadstairs we spotted Dickens House and paid a minimal fee to enter.

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What a delight it was, especially the man who could have been Dickens himself he knew so much about the author and those surrounding this famous writer. Again, it was someone I could have listened to all day. Max, too, was enamored with this older gentleman’s knowledge and gentle humor.

The more we stumble upon historical figures, the more I realize how many biographies I want to read, from Eisenhower’s to Diane of Poitiers. So, be prepared to fast forward if you’re not quite as interested in these ghosts from the past!

Charles Dickens (1812-70) became famous at a young age (20’s) writing under the pen name BOZ. He actually began writing by doing freelance reporting, eventually submitting articles to two major London newspapers.

His fictional stories began as a series in publications that were later bound into one book, the first one being SKETCHES BY BOZ IN 1836.

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In addition to reporting and writing sketches, he became publisher of BENTLEY’S MISCELLANY, a publication in which he began OLIVER TWIST. He also edited other publications and included segments of OLIVER TWIST in those as well. This guy definitely knew the art of promotion.

Dickens was a busy man not only writing, editing and publishing but also lecturing. Several tours included the US (1842 and 1867-68), the latter earning him what would be roughly $1.5 million today. Not too shabby for someone whose father was thrown into prison for debt and who was pulled out of school twice, once at age 12 (went to work in a boot-blacking factory) then again at 15. The latter landed him in an office, which is where he began honing his writing skills.

Two interesting tidbits concerning Dickens US tours. During both of his trips to the states, he lobbied the American Congress to recognize the copyright of British authors whose work was pirated by American Publishers. Sound like another country anyone knows?

An online article by Philip V. Allingham (http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/pva/pva75.html) covers the fascinating history of Dickens’ efforts to institute an international copyright.

Another interesting side note is one I found on the webpage http://charlesdickenspage.com/america.html:

Following a Dickens reading in Portland, Maine, on the 30th of March, 1868 12-year-old Kate Wiggin, having missed the Portland reading, encountered Charles Dickens on a train bound for Boston. Dickens was quite taken with this precocious child and spent considerable time talking with her during the journey. He was amused when she told him that she had read all of his books, skipping over some of the “lengthy dull parts.” Kate grew up to be a novelist herself, publishing Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in 1903. In 1912 she published her account of the meeting with Dickens as A Child’s Journey with Dickens.

Briefly, he married Catherine Hogarth (1815-79) who wrote for the MORNING CHRONICLE where Dickens also worked.

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They married in 1836, had ten children (too many according to Dickens but whose fault is that?…), and later separated in 1858. The latter was partly due to his affair with Ellen (Nelly) Terman (1839-1914), an English actress, lasting for 13 years until he died in 1870.

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I didn’t realize this but Dickens based all of his characters on real life figures. Even Scrooge was someone real, but, as our friend told us, the real Scrooge started out good and ended up bad.

Broadstairs was where Dickens spent holidays many a summer beginning when we was 25 years old. While there he met and visited Mary Pearson Strong. She lived at 2 Victoria Parade and became the model for Betsey Trotwood, the great-aunt in DAVID COPPERFIELD.

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The front parlor was decorated exactly as Dickens described, and other rooms held some of his personal letters, his writing desk, and drawings and photos. For any Dickens fan it’s a treasure chest. I told our host I’d like his email so I could ask him any questions that might arise from reading one of Dickens’ books.

With heads stuffed with Dickens-isms we retraced our steps only taking the high road (above the cliffs) from Broadstairs back to Ramsgate and JUANONA.

The next day dawned hazy and windy, so we decided to wait another 24 hours for the wind to die. We decided to take the bus to Canterbury and scout out the area for a visit I was going to share with two college friends beginning of October.

It was another beautiful September day, and everyone else felt that, too, for Canterbury was packed. We found out there was a graduation ceremony, which also contributed to the crowds. Finding our way around this circuitous city was difficult. Signs would state “Tourist Information” but wouldn’t actually point you in the direction of the building. After asking at least three different people in the space of fifteen minutes we found it.

There, we picked up some brochures and decided to head to St. Martin’s Church, the oldest church founded in the English civilization. I’m going to add directly from Wikipedia because it says it better than I could any day:

“St Martin’s was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th century before Augustine arrived from Rome. Queen Bertha was a Christian Frankish princess who arrived in England with her Chaplain, Bishop Liudhard. King Æthelberht of Kent, her pagan husband, allowed her to continue to practise her religion by renovating (ca. AD 580) an existing church which the Venerable Bede says had been in use in the late Roman period but had fallen into disuse. As Bede specifically names it, this church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, a city located near where Bertha grew up.

Upon Augustine’s arrival he used St Martin’s as his mission headquarters, immediately enlarging it (AD 597), and King Æthelberht was soon baptised here. With the quickly subsequent establishments of Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey, St Martin’s lost prestige but retains its priority and historical importance.”

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Unfortunately, even though the Tourist Information Office said it was open, it wasn’t. But, we looked around and then headed back to continue our hunt for ceramic heaters, which Max had been searching for since Portsmouth.

No luck around Canterbury (shopkeepers said it was still a bit early for stocking them). So, we caught a return bus to Ramsgate and prepared for the next day’s departure: crossing the Thames!

Red rover, red rover, we’re headed to Dover!

On Sunday, September 7, we were up and out of the Marina to catch the favorable tide to Dover. No wind

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but, if we ran out of favorable current, at least we wouldn’t be bucking wind AND tide. I’m a big fan of turning on our engine as well as appreciating it more when it’s turned off.

One noteworthy event was the crossing of the Greenwich Prime Meridian, the North-South line serving as the zero reference for Longitude.

It’s really blurry and we were just an itty-bitty bit passed it (heading east) but you can make it out (all the 0’s at the bottom).

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As the haze lifted we spotted Beachy Head and its striped lighthouse against the brilliant white cliffs.

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Ten hours from when we left Brighton we entered Dover Harbor, which is so busy they have traffic lights to let you know when it’s okay to enter. (This is a view looking out to the western entrance.)

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In spite of the London Chunnel taking a chunk of Dover’s business to France, there are still zooming ferries heading to/from Calais (less than 20 miles away), multi-decker cruise ships lining the western quay, and local fishing boats claiming their home berths in addition to little guys like us.

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But, we hailed the Harbor Control who gave us permission to head to the Inner Harbor where we waited at the visitor’s pontoon for the gates to open to Dover Marina.

While waiting we met a family behind us who had just been out for a day sail. The 12-year old boy had gotten a GoPro camera for his birthday and was generously sharing some videos of him and his uncle swimming earlier in the day. Must admit it was fun being around someone so young (to me ) and so enthusiastic. What is it about little kids and their British accents? They just seem automatically proper and polite. And, this guy definitely was both as well as engaging.

After three hours, the gate opened and off we motored to our berth.

Views of the marina; nice backdrop but pretty industrial feeling.

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The marina is filled with locals’ boats versus transients, such as us. The location is on the western end of town with the eastern docks comprised of ferry traffic. The town and marina appear to have fallen on hard times due to the 2008 recession compounded by the decline of ferry traffic. Yet, this town has some amazing history, on both ends of the time spectrum.

A Bronze Age Boat (timbers dating from 1550 B.C.E.) was discovered here in the early 1990s and stated to be the earliest surviving cross-channel vessel. So much for swimming across.

In the mid 50’s A.D.C. Julius Caesar got an itch to conquer Britain and tried twice. The second time worked, and to this day one of the two lighthouses remain along with remnants of their fort where Dover Castle now stands.

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It’s opposite a church first built in 1000 and still holds services (Audrey, maybe an ancestor? :)

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Jump ahead to 1066 A.D.E. and you have William the Conqueror sailing across with his Norman buddies and winning the Battle of Hastings and a crown for his head.

Move forward another century and you’ve got Henry II who, as one guide told us, built the castle for show. Evidently, according to the same guide, in 1179 the French King Louis VII headed over to Dover to pay what they say is the first state visit. Henry, realizing he had had no magnificent building with which to impress the French king, started piling money into this fortress located in Dover. He was going to make darn sure his place was going to be something people would talk about, in a good sense.

Another reason for creating a showplace was the canonization of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This priest was murdered mistakenly when hot-headed Henry II supposedly uttered ‘will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?!’ and off went four knights to do just that. Anyhow, Thomas Becket in death had quite a following along with the impressive cathedral in Canterbury. Wanting to counteract Becket’s growing popularity coupled with a desire to impress the French, Henry poured over a quarter of his average annual income into this castle.

The walls are 21 feet thick at ground level rising to 17 feet at the top.

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Thanks to the organization English Heritage, the castle is decorated with exact replicas of what would have been in a medieval castle. (Anyone thinking of traveling in England for any length of time and/or visiting a lot of their sites, purchase an annual membership from English Heritage. Not only will one visit to one site practically pay for your membership, you’re also supporting a good cause. Thanks to cruiser friends, Dick and Moira Bentzel who told us about this.)

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Adjoining this room was the scriptorium and what must have been the largest messenger bag ever.

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Another small room off the king’s chambers was the wardrobe where Max was interested in trying on the mail.

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The guide pointed out that, yes, it’s heavy but the weight mainly rested on the shoulders and on the hips, thanks to a belt. They also starting training at a very young age so were quite strong by the time they may have worn armor (if they could afford it or were given it by their lord). Plus, they were fit back then: whereas today’s guy would have a healthy caloric load of up to 3,000, back then they’d consumer 8-9,000. Sounds like my kind of diet.

The people working on the site were really well-versed in the history of each part of the site. For instance, the guide with whom we were speaking inside the castle said some of the clues it was for show vs. strictly for defense were:

Kitchen door on the first floor was way too big (easy to force an entry).

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Doorways and stairs throughout were also too wide (a lot of soldiers could storm up and into rooms)

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(You can’t really tell size of these steps but they gave me chills just thinking of the historical figures who walked upon them.)

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And, the construction was painstakingly decorated with alternating bands of black and white stone (more interested in how it looked than how it’d hold up).

I could have listened to this guy all day

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but Max was getting a bit antsy, so we exited what they think could have been Edward I’s chambers (since he added the fireplace to make it more comfortable) and headed for the chapel.

The chapel is what Henry II would recognize as it hasn’t changed since he was here.

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The kitchen was a wee bit different from George IV’s.

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The well was 400 feet deep and located on the second floor next to the king’s chambers. Talk about a lot of digging.

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Blast forward 600 years and you have the Napoleonic wars causing even more refurbishing and expansion of this fortress sitting atop the famous white cliffs of Dover.

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Add another 200 or so years to 1940 and you have the oft-told tale of the evacuation of Dunkirk known as Operation Dynamo and led by Admiral Ramsey. In tunnels facing the English Channel,

(looking from the west towards the east)

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(and, east towards west)

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Ramsey and his team coordinated an amazing feat of saving hundreds of thousands of British and French troops when ambushed by the Germans May 1940. You quickly realize how daunting this task must have been, especially in light of having only one telephone line to Ramsey’s headquarters. All the other communications had to rely on telegraphs and signal flags from ships.

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Below is a quote capturing the spirit of the men and women who worked tirelessly to save those who were fighting against the ugly tyranny of an evil, psychotic despot.

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During our walking up and down and then up again, we took a lunch break almost sharing it with a mom and her baby, the latter annoying the heck out of the former.

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And, we took advantage of the view by snapping a photo of the harbor and our marina, way off in the distance, nestled behind the larger bodies of water.

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Then zeroed in,

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until we could spot JUANONA, under the blue tarp-wrapped boat, second one from the right.

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Again, a visit that we thought would take an hour or so turned into an amazing passage through history. With tired feet we started our trek down the hill and towards home only to catch a glimpse of a ferry heading towards France.

Soon, we’ll say good-bye to Dover but we’ll always remain in awe of the history found atop its brilliant white cliffs.

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Strolling down the boulevard

We made landing in Brighton’s Premier Marina (name of the organization that runs it) Tuesday, September 2. The marina is okay; but, Brighton proper, on the other hand, is a bit of a wonderful trip, beginning with George IV’s extravagant Royal Pavilion.

First, the marina. And, please keep in mind, ALL of this is what a friend of ours calls a First World Problem, i.e., no biggie on the loving life scale.

Premier can’t help it if the only way to offer berths and safe resting places is this completely fabricated facility a mile from town. Plus, they’re so busy they have hired young people who haven’t really been trained in the art of welcoming paying visitors. Lastly there are so many locked gates, turnstiles, and bars, I feel like I’m going through a prison’s security check to exit and enter.

We’re on pontoon 11, so first you push a button (if you’re heading out; if in, use your magnetic key.)
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Walk down to the shower area and laundry block which are locked, too,
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female shower & toilet area…
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the arm-and-a-leg laundry…
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finally, freedom on the other side after you press a button to go through, one at a time…
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So, to come in and use the toilet, check laundry and get back to JUANONA it’s four locked gates. Makes you wonder about crime around here.

But, as I said above, this is so very minor compared to once you’re in town because…

Brighton proper is pretty wonderful.

Starting our walk by leaving the marina’s gates where Max showed me something he said he wanted to buy for me,

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I politely told him ‘no thanks’.

We followed the boardwalk along the beach, which is composed of small beige and orange rocks, at least by the walkway. Unfortunately, there are many homeless people, no doubt attracted to the relatively warm winters here. We saw many tents set up under bridges and under arches as we continued heading towards town.

Weedy greenery decorate part of the path, and I finally got my bunny photo (been trying to nab a live shot of those since we saw them hippity-hoppity around the Azores. Remember Pedro?… Alas, Tricia, no dwarf donkey… :).

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We spotted some familiar icons once we reached downtown.

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The temperature was getting really summery causing Max, who’s in love with these pants he first saw on Martin in Sao Miguel, to disrobe. No problem here. He’s got some legs on him even if I do say so myself :)

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Getting into the town center we stopped for a quick brunch-breakfast. You can tell we needed some nutrients.

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Ordered a bottle of water and thought of our niece and nephew, Sarah and Iain, whose boat’s name is Blue.

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Plus, I’m fascinated by organizations supporting sustainable water, and this company does so with a clever, subtle dare to other bottlers.

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Locating the local library for Internet usage (and loo), I immediately thought of my Curtis Friends pals, Marcy and Carol. You guys, this library is amazing: enter through a little gift shop with this monitor to your right:

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Walking into the main part, we were greeted with this airy and bright, large expanse of library books, multi-media items, and signs for other areas to explore.

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Facing the entry is a screen asking for your thoughts on the Jubilee Library.

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Everyone was helpful (we were greeted as we walked in), and we received a three-day, temporary library card allowing us use of the library, including book and DVD borrowing.

I spotted folk eating and sipping java and realized they had a little cafe tucked around the corner.

All I can say is THIS is a wonderful place to be. (I returned the next day to upload the blob blog while sampling a few of their cafe’s wares.)

After running some errands we wandered to George IV’s Royal Pavilion. Ellen, YOU would absolutely LOVE this place. And, you’d be explaining what all of the decor was.

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Once again, I was very much surprised to enter such a fascinating world. Like the MARY ROSE exhibit, I thought we’d tour three or so large rooms, do a been-there-done-that tour, and leave for other Brighton parts unknown.

Wrong. With the free, I might add, audio guides we ever so slowly strolled through room after room, gasping at some of the extreme decor this indolent Duke of Wales-then Prince Regent-then, finally, unfortunately, king used British funds for. He piled up so much inexcusable debt, George IV incurred the contempt of the people and Parliament. With his lavish lifestyle he created this opulent ‘home’ to entertain without a thought to the cost or message he was sending to those paying for all of it. Hmmm… I could go political here, but I won’t.

This is how I’m sure he’d love to be remembered:

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In reality, not so much.

But, it would have been fascinating to observe one of his parties. He employed French chefs throughout his life here; and, subsequently, this guy got so fat he had a tunnel built from his residence to his stables so people wouldn’t ridicule him; one meal featured over 100 courses.

To go in, you enter through a very calming, green room, which spills you into a long hall where the oriental motif really starts taking shape. We saw Chinese, bobble-head figures, roughly two-feet tall (he had over 30) and, then, voila! His dining room.

Unbelievable.

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George IV evidently appreciated more than French food. He also liked the French dining etiquette of having guests serve themselves from the multiple dishes set on the table itself. Another French manner was mixing men and women versus men on one side, women, the other. Of course, the audio guide said this also facilitated easier intimacy. He sat in the middle to ensure he was in the thick of the conversations (probably easier to reach the food, too).

The chandelier dropped out of painted and wooden plantain leaves,

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followed by a breathing dragon 12 feet long.

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This guy also relished surprising people, so a lot of his decor was comprised of magical effects. For instance, the stairs leading upstairs had a railing painted to appear like bamboo but, was in effect, iron.

His music room wasn’t too shabby either…

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The kitchen had all of the modern conveniences at that time, which George liked to show off. He even held one of his dinner parties amidst the pots and pans.

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His bedroom was moved to the first floor when he couldn’t manage the steps anymore due to his weight.

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His private quarters included a lovely library as well as another sitting area (he was a great fan of art and literature, which is one reason why he was so attached to his music room.)

Unfortunately, his niece Queen V, felt too exposed walking around Brighton; plus, the pavilion really wasn’t set up for a large family; so, she sold it in 1850 and, with Prince Albert, build a retreat across the way on the Isle of Wight. She stripped the Pavilion of all the possessions, almost all of which have been returned, to prevent thievery. Yet, I believe the audio guide said she kept a bobble head or two.

Fortunately, the town bought it, kept it from being demolished, and now possess the only royal palace not owned by the royals or the government. Pretty nifty.

A few days later one of our NZ mates, Jane Smallfield, joined us in Brighton. We were fortunate in that her work brought her to Winchester, a two-hour train ride from Brighton.

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It was a wonderful meet-up as the last time was in the US when she was also traveling for work and ended up in Boston. We picked her up in Connecticut where she was watching a game starring one of her daughters, Caitlin. Caitlin is attending school at the University of Hartford and plays for its team, The Hawks (and, is doing really well with their opening season… have to throw that in for Max and I feel like a proud aunt and uncle). So, to meet up in England was amazing and wonderful.

Like with all good friends, the agenda didn’t matter, just the ability to be together and talk. And, so we did.

After lattes and some pastries (coffee goes down better with those) we wandered down to Brighton Pier so she could get a glimpse and feel of the city.

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The pier is definitely honky-tonk with its vending machines,

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cut-out photo ops,

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various decorations,

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and tossing games that taunt one to win some stuffed creature.

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Deciding to head to the marina, we saw some BRIGHTON-HOVE MOTOR CAR time trials occurring just on the east side of the pier. The road along the beach was filled with colorful observers and vehicles.

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People peered over the wall from the street watching as cars zoomed by. Must admit, it was pretty difficult not to.

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Security was fairly tight, which could have come from Britain’s raising the terrorist threat last week.

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Reaching the marina, we had lunch aboard

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then headed back towards the train station for Jane’s 5:19p to Winchester.

It was an absolutely splendid way to spend our last day in Brighton, this proud city which is a bit worn about the edges but carries on with head held high and a welcoming smile.