Monday, May 02, 2005

Palm Trees in England

Today is the May Day bank holiday.

Originally I had no plans for the three-day weekend, but then on Friday I sold a meeting later this month in Bournemouth at a hotel that we hadn't seen, so I arranged for a room and went to the beach yesterday.

Along the way, I stopped in Salisbury for lunch and had a chance to walkaround and catch a little parade, saw some kids dancing around the maypole, and the town band gave a little concert. Found an excellent thai restaurant for some tom ka gai and a spring roll and then headed on. I'd planned to go look at the big chalk giant, but there were pagan May Day plans there and I wasn't up to the crowds. Instead, went to Sherborne and toured Sir Walter Raleigh's house, wandered the garden, and spent some time on a bench amid castle ruins playing the ukulele. (Didn't get any tips, but got some funny looks and a couple of ovations.) There was an older woman named Elsie who had parked her three-wheeler on a bridge about half way around the lake, and she was kind of the troll that demands the toll, except nicer. Everyone who passed had to stop and chat or feel pangs of guilt for ignoring her. We had a nice conversation about America, traveling alone, and the companions she'd had in her life. Seems her first husband was the lazy stereotype of the British male...always round the pub, never helping with the housework, watching footie on the tv...and so she divorced him. After 20 years alone she found a nice companion named Herb who took her on trips and cooked Sunday dinner (though he couldn't make gravy, so she did that when she got home from church.) He passed away about 10 years ago, and now she goes to mass most Sundays and then wheels out to the garden of Sherborne Castle to enjoy the day. She sent me on my way when I shared that I hoped to stop in the Abbey on my way out of town, as it really is a must-see and she didn't want me to miss it. So I moved on to town and walked around until I found it. Elsie is right. The Abbey is amazing. It's really quite a modest church, but it's got a beautiful cove/buttressed ceiling and some very dramatic natural lighting. I'd say it's one of my favorite churches I've seen.

Finally got to Bournemouth about 5. My hotel was right on the water, and my room had a spectacular balcony with a panoramic view of the Channel and the pier. The water was surprisingly clear and pretty, and the beach is spectacular. It's like seven miles of nice sand and gentle waves. Went across the street to a little italian place for dinner...great food, but I always hate eating alone in vacation spots because no one else is. (Cities are a different story.) Took a walk around the area then went home and watched The Godfather.

This morning I took the tour of the hotel after breakfast and then headed out to explore. Bournemouth is really pretty for resort town. There's a great garden that starts/ends at the pier, and so I wandered around that for awhile. There are actually PALM TREES in this part of England. The air felt like California, actually. It was great. There were buskers and street performers all over the place, but I didn't have Howard with me so today I just observed. Eventually I decided it was time to hit the beach. There is a cliff walk and a beachside promenade, and I decided on the later since it's by the water (the cliff walk is about 15 stories up.) There are the obligatory cotton candy stands and icecream vendors of any beach, and the promenade is lined for miles by these great little sheds that people own/rent for the summer to provide shelter along the water. You couldn't really live in them....not enough space to sleep and no running water, but many had generators and tea pots and lots of comforts to make a day at the beach more like home. When open, they each had about a 10x10 covered space, and with the beach chairs clustered around they could make a nice little cabana for 6 - 8 people. Walked about three miles one way, sat down in the sun and finished my book. Helped another older lady in a three wheeler who hit the curb and tipped over...she wasn't hurt, but she couldn't get the thing upright again...and then headed back to the car. I've come away with a bit of a tan and the knowledge that you can be at the beach in an hour and a half.

Definitely a good weekend.

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