Sun. May 15, 2016:
Brighton to Winchester
I had not fully closed the curtains the night before and at 7am I awoke to a sliver of sunshine peeking in. I swapped out my iPad with my phone in the charger and went right back to sleep. When Brent tried to wake me up at 9am I was so not having it, I was in a deep sleep. I made coffee in the hotel even though it was instant coffee because all the cafes we had passed the previous day were past the Royal Pavilion and I need coffee before I can start my day.
The streets of Brighton were much nicer in the morning, nice and empty. At the Royal Pavilion we had just beat the rush to the ticket line. The Music Room and the Banquet Room were absolutely stunning and just unbelievable. There was a crystal chandelier held up by dragon sculptures. The décor was very lush. Somehow the library was forgotten in all this, it did not meet the same standards. We had not gotten the audio tour and were probably the only people in the whole place without it. It periodically caused traffic jams we had go around. Everyone’s audio tours were loud and out of sync causing a quiet cacophony of out of sync narrators.
We stopped at a souvenir shop but I couldn’t find any postcards to meet my exacting standards. We went for another walk in the lanes this time keeping an eye out for the little tea shop. I have no idea by what way of wandering we had found it the first time, we could not find it for the life of us.
We walked down to the beach to the side of the pier that I had noticed yesterday. It was here that we found the boardwalk, the second half of the Brighton ocean-side fun. We had our terrible-as-planned lunch on the boardwalk. Brent had fish & chips, apparently a boardwalk staple. And I had what I considered the boardwalk staple: a hotdog. Only it was more like a really crappy bratwurst than an “American” hotdog. It was awful. And it totally fit the bill of what a lunch on a tacky boardwalk by the ocean should be.
As we walked there was construction and I noticed a sign pointing down the way and saying Ben & Jerry’s. Forget the crappy soft serve, Ben & Jerry’s is a way better boardwalk ice cream treat! The sign lied. There was no Ben & Jerry’s. There was one shop that had a Ben & Jerry’s cooler… that had mini containers, not even scoopable ice cream! I did manage to find some postcards on the boardwalk.
On the way back I stopped in at the ice cream shop from the previous day. It was awesome, not only was the ice cream (Oreo cookies and cream) delicious and fresh, but there was also a student discount! We had one last wander through the lanes and there was no sign of that tea shop. It had vanished. It was too awkward to Google as well as these were alleys behind shops and not proper streets. We stopped in at a pound store (one of three different brands all within a block of each other) for some road soda: fruity Fanta and an Irn Bru.
When we got to the car I put down my purse and was horrified to find bird crap on the strap. A bird had crapped on my shoulder. Not good news when you only have the one sweater and are only into the first few days of your vacation. I was not happy.
The scenery as we drove was beautiful, fields filled with animals and even a castle off in the distance. To get to our hotel room in Winchester we had to walk down a corridor between the restaurant and its patio. It was awkward to walk through there laden like a camel with all my stuff. The army guys drinking on the patio thankfully did not seem to care.
We had the whole afternoon to wander around the town of Winchester. Of course my first stop was the mall. There was a Primark and my curiosity got the best of me. It was a small crappy one though. We walked over to Winchester Cathedral but it would be closing soon so we decided to leave it as planned, the next morning, when we would have enough time for it. Plus there was a religious festival of some sort happening in the park and I did not want to have anything to do with it.
Walking to Winchester College I noticed signs for Wolvesey Palace, why not check I out I suggested. It was an unexpectedly amazing find: the ruins of a castle that got sacked in the 16th century. We learned about the rich bishops of the 12th century. It was just the shell of a castle, barely anything standing left, but so picturesque.
On the way there we had somehow missed the house that Jane Austen died in, we had to keep an eye out as we returned. We had to speed walk to keep ahead of an annoying family playing trivia, also looking for the house. It had a sign saying it was a private residence, no wonder we had walked right by, there was nothing to distinguish it. Winchester College proved to be similarly disappointing as it was closed to the public and we could not see over the wall.
We walked out a street festival we had seen earlier on our way to some historic buildings marked on our tourist map from the hotel. The Law Courts were modern and boring. But next door was the Great Hall which was still open and admission by donation. There was a round table hanging on the wall, presumably they claimed that the story of the “round table” had originated in this hall. Across from that building in the courtyard there were remnants of a 16th century castle. There was a stairway leading down a secret passageway that you could look into. It was creepy to look down the dark tunnel.
Walking back we could see that the main tourist strip was staring to empty out, the day-trippers were going home. We stopped at McDonald’s to grab some dinner, it was around the corner from our hotel. The menu did not have too much wacky stuff. There was a “New York” burger that used a bagel instead of buns and had coleslaw. Brent had an “extra spicy” chicken sandwich, but it was not that spicy. These were some really weird iterations of what “tastes of America” (as the promotion was called) would constitute. There were two other intriguing burgers in this promotion, but one was no longer available and the other one was going to be available towards the end of our trip. The McFlurry selection was just awful, who wants a caramel cheesecake McFlurry?! We had a walk of McShame as we passed the patio and restaurant, now filled with wedding party guests mingling with hotel patrons. We briefly considered joining them after dinner. Everyone seemed like such friendly drinkers.
Irn Bru and teacakes made for a much better dessert than any McFlurry ever could. Earlier in the day I had seen a post office, therefore I had to set to writing my postcards so I could mail them the next morning. It was tough to write this early in the trip. We cracked open the chips from the previous night. The marmite chips were terrible, the Worcestershire sauce chips were surprisingly decent. The WiFi was weedy but somehow Netflix was working well enough that we managed to watch 3 episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt while drinking Henry Weston’s Cider (which I opened on the door jamb) and eating tea cakes. I was tempted to eat the complimentary short bread cookie, but I knew I would regret it in the morning when I would have nothing to eat.
In the evening we went back out for a walk to see the cleared out town. We stopped in at the Old Vine pub for a drink. The religious festival was still going strong. It turns out the bar tender had been born in Canada. He was a very nice guy, he gave Brent a very generous tasting (a quarter pint really) of beer. I had a Bulmer’s pear cider and we split a bag of Piper’s cheddar and onion chips. The lady at the table next to ours was talking about her friend who saw aliens in a field, as close to her as she was to the bar now. She talked with such conviction, she was clearly nuts. Then there was another lady talking about her wire and knit sculpture.
We decided to go check out the religious festival as last time we passed by it had turned into a concert. Things were now winding down and everyone was leaving. The healers and their tents were all gone. I saw a guy wearing a jacket, emblazoned on the back STREET PASTOR. It was unreal. Back at the hotel the wedding party was still going strong, having moved into the bar. Brent went to check out the taps and I saw kids paying for lemonade… this wedding wasn’t even an open bar!
The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and reading. The internet was still a very weak connection.