Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 9 England/Paris Trip

Coastal Day – Fossils, Cliffs and CREAM TEA!

(Mr. Kim’s comments in italics.)

(Internet picture)

It’s not easy getting into this again. So much LIFE intervened and I had to put away all my notes and folders and books and pamphlets. I’ve gotten them all back out, but my brain is being balky. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little creaky at first.

I don’t understand your problem. I remember our trip as if it were yesterday…. The cheesesteak sandwiches, seeing the Liberty Bell, the side trip to the Jersey shore…. No need to review the notes!

This was our first full day in Dorchester, but we spent almost no time there at all. We got up, had another wonderful breakfast and hit the road.

We drove back through quiet little Chideock and along the sea to Charmouth, a beautiful coastal village. Charmouth’s big draw is fossil hunting. On what is called the Jurassic Coast – England’s first natural World Heritage Site – Charmouth is home to the Charmouth Heritage Centre. The Centre is full of fossils and fossil hunting advice and a good place for sissy Americans to dive into when the rain starts. The Brits, of course, just Carry On. This is truly a gorgeous and wild looking coastline:

and we loved wandering up and down the beach searching the strewn rocks for fossils. We didn’t find a thing, but brought home a few interesting looking bits and pieces for The Child and Mr. Kim’s mom. For a country noted for its soggy weather, we couldn’t complain about the rain – it was a cold downpour but only lasted an hour or two. It was the only time the entire trip we had rain during daylight hours.

Just west of Charmouth is Lyme Regis, our next destination. Lyme Regis is still considered a village, but seemed large to us, having become used to the little one-main-road burgs we had been driving through. A gorgeous town, with charming houses, gardens and shops that spill down from the cliffs to the beautiful seaside.

I especially fell in love with this pink cottage and its gorgeous garden:

It was certainly bustling with people on that sunshiny Sunday. Families, young couples, old folks – all intent on enjoying the good weather while it lasted.

We did find some tranquil spots. The church of the day was St. Michael the Archangel:

Perched on a hill with a spectacular view and benches for quiet contemplation:

St. Michael’s is a beautiful, light-filled building with lovely stained glass, tapestries and paintings. What I found particularly unusual were the gorgeous decorations on the fa├žade of the case holding the organ pipes:

The color in the picture is true – quite pastel and what you might not be able to make out is that parts of them were actually metallic. Really remarkable.

St. Michael’s churchyard is the burial place of Mary Anning. I vaguely remembered hearing about her and the story is interesting. She was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis into a working class family of fossil collectors. At the age of 12, she and her brother found one of the first ever ichthyosaur skeletons. She worked at fossil collecting her whole life, without any formal education and was known throughout Europe as a collector and dealer. Being a woman and poor, she couldn’t belong to the organizations and publications that men could. And yet the fossil crazed world of the early 19th century seemingly beat a path to her door to buy the artifacts that she found and to consult her on geology and anatomy.

We wandered around the streets and shops of Lyme Regis and strolled the promenade. Lyme Regis is exactly the kind of place that I’d vacation at if I lived in England. It was yet another place that I wished we had more time to explore. Some more favorite shots:

We had a little snack at the Mulberry Manor Bakery on Broad Street. Since I knew that I was going to get a cream tea, come hell or high water, we didn’t want a lot and shared a gorgeous beef and bleu cheese pasty and a flaky, crisp cheese straw. We might not have gotten as far as Cornwall, but I thought that pasty was awfully good:

She didn’t want any part of it, but I couldn’t resist a tart little marinated pepper stuffed with cheese.

One small curiosity captured my attention on the walk back to the car. In a large but otherwise unremarkable building we saw this:

I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out, although everyone I have shown the picture to has tumbled to it immediately. This is a public mail slot in the former post office, one of the oldest in the country.

What can I say, simple things amuse me.

On to Beer. Not the drink, but the village (though Mr. Kim had fun taking pictures of every sign with the word ‘Beer’ on it – he especially liked The Beer Social Club and the Beer Coast Guard). My Aunt Mary lives in Beer. Unfortunately, she happened to be in the States during our trip. We didn’t coordinate very well and we were all so disappointed to have missed a visit. Beer is a small village built around a small cove. Like Lyme Regis, it is hilly with the car park being built on a fairly high cliff. We parked and hiked down to the main street:

Fore Street. Packed with shops and tea rooms:

and finishing up at the water:

Kim stayed up on a bench at street level (and I do mean up – the shore fell away precipitously) while I walked down to the sea. Besides the larger fishing boats, there were lots of little rental single masters and outboard boats. I thought it would be fun to take one out, though it was too late in the day and there were none for rent then. I can imagine an earlier time, when Londoners on holiday would come to Lyme Regis and maybe take out a boat for a morning. Or perhaps not – it may be that recreational boating is only a recent arrival in this fishing village. But it is fun to imagine.

I turned and looked at how far I had to climb to get back to Kim and was quite ready to find a pub.

We wandered up Fore Street, captivated again by the cottages and gardens (and Mr. Kim vigilantly on the look-out for more funny ‘Beer’ signs). A sample:

We found where my aunt lives and even met one of her neighbors, who very kindly recommended The Captain’s Cottage on Fore Street for our cream tea.

A short primer on ‘TEA’ may be needed here. Not to sound snooty, but ‘TEA’ as a meal is something that Americans get wrong most often. They tend to talk about ‘High Tea’, when they really mean ‘Afternoon Tea’. ‘High Tea’ is just dinner – an evening meal with a main course of fish or meat. Cake and tea afterwards, of course – it IS England, after all. The tea meal that consists of delectable little sandwiches (TEA sandwiches) and cakes and tea is actually ‘Afternoon Tea’ and almost no one has that anymore except as a treat or a party. Or, of course, desperately Anglophile little girls, enraptured by English storybooks and cobbling together a tea of Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip and cucumbers served with hot Lipton.

A cream tea is another thing entirely. Eaten anytime you like, from what I can see – and you should have it as often as you possibly can if you go to England. A cream tea is tea served with scones, jam and an impossibly delicious and rich comestible called ‘clotted cream’. Clotted cream is very rich and VERY fattening cream that is made from full cream milk and, alas, does not travel. Though, I understand that it is possible to make it, if you can get ahold of unpasteurized cream.

The Captain’s Cottage was utterly charming:

Stone walls, thatched roof and a sign saying “Cream Teas, Crab sandwiches and Dogs Welcome”. I’m not sure I even needed a recommendation – I would have picked this place anyway. Struggling mightily (and successfully) to resist the lure of a crab sandwich, we ordered a cream tea for two:

A properly built scone:

There is a lot more clotted cream on there than it looks like – it’s hiding beneath the jam. You should pile it up pretty high. I kept telling Mr. Kim, “Put on more – it’s not BUTTER, it’s CREAM!!!” The jam is strawberry, made from the tiniest, sweetest little berries that I’ve ever seen. I was a happy girl:

I wish I had taken a picture of the tea pots. They were lined up on a series of shelves in the dining room, as much decoration as serving pieces. In Three Bears fashion, they came in smallish pots for a one or two person service, medium sized ones (which we got) and family sized pots that seemed practically door mouse sized. The owner/cook/waitress was constantly coming out to get a pot from the shelf or returning to shelve freshly cleaned ones from the kitchen. As I have said, weird little things catch my attention sometimes.

Replete and sleepy, I found myself unable to climb that cliff to retrieve the car. Luckily, I had brought a husband. There goes Mr. Kim to get the car:

Thanks, Mr. Kim. Hmmm. He doesn’t seem to be responding.

We made our way slowly back to Dorchester to the hotel. It’s a good thing the GPS knew where we were going. Jeeves chose a route for us that for several hours largely looked like this:

Not for the first time, we were thankful to have it with us – we simply could not have found our way around without it. But what a grand adventure!

Dinner that night was (I blush) another convenience store sandwich. We were exhausted and on our way to Winchester the next morning and, like I said they were pretty good, exactly what we needed after a full day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My BIG News

That shaking you feel is not the epicenter of a new Virginia earthquake. It’s me doing the Happy Dance. I have, as of last Monday, joined the ranks of the retired. (more shaking – still just the dance.) It may only be temporary – we are hoping that we can swing it financially. But even if it is, I am going to enjoy having a life while it lasts.

This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. Honestly, I never really wanted to grow up to be anything but a housewife. I wanted to cook and keep a house and take care of my family. I was born in the wrong generation, I think. But then, I am such a flaming liberal (born that way, I think – I used to get all pissed at Darren when he tried to boss Samantha) that I would have been tarred and feathered in any other era.

So, I will not miss working. I will, however, miss some of the wonderful people that I worked with. Things had gotten really crappy there and the only thing that made going to work bearable was those folks. They know who they are and I am going to make a gargantuan effort not to lose touch in my tendency to cocoon.

Some folks asked if I wasn’t afraid of being bored. Hah! I’ve been off a week and feel like I haven’t taken a break yet. I’ve worked on some projects. I’ve caught up on blog reading. I’ve cooked meals. I’ve hosted a Super Bowl party (I’m hoping that Mr. Kim will do a blog post since he did most of the cooking – it was GOOOOD). And I keep finding myself smiling. I am just so freaking happy. I’ve had lots of jobs – some I even liked and almost always worked with some amazing people. But working was what bored me. I’ve never, ever found myself bored staying home.

I just haven’t ever been a terribly ambitious person. I know that’s not too cool to admit. And I know that that has puzzled the people in my life. I think that there may be some who are STILL waiting for me at age 52 to ‘find myself’. To find a fulfilling, career. Well, I did. I’m home. I’m happy and comfortable and at peace. Is there really anything more than that in this world?