Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

4 Nov 2015

French Foraging on the English Coast

When I get a bee in my bonnet I really do go all out.  I have for some considerable time, wanted a very particular small leather club chair, it had to be the smaller version, a very particular shade of leather colour, with a shaped back and just the right amount of tatty.  Dated about 1920 to 1930 from France.  You can find many variations but the price is always, shall we say, reflective of the age and rarity. I've noticed that the good French antiques mostly come over with the dealers on the coast, namely from Brighton along to Margate, where they are then distributed to the rest of the UK, or even back to France as one dealer told me.

So I resigned myself to having to travel to pick it up and used that as an excuse to have a night away and a little explore along the beaches and cliffs. I really want to explore the UK more so plan to do a few travel blogs for anyone wanting a day or more nights trip.

the most interesting shop in the world, my friend Jane says so, it's in Rye
Last time we had a week exploring this area, in the summer, we stayed in hotels and honestly, they really weren't brilliant.  I chose the most reasonably priced so didn't expect the Ritz, however some basics were lacking, generally in the bathroom, room size and wifi departments. One bathroom was so small you had to squeeze along the side of the loo so that the door could close before you used it. The sink was designed for 'Barbies' house and it was impossible to get a cup under the tap such were the dimensions. Mostly one had to wander around, and end up sitting next to the receptionist to get any kind of wifi connection and one pub hotel in Lewes (not the cheapest either) had peeling paint on the walls, threadbare carpets and the worst tasting wine I've ever been overcharged for.

With this experience behind us I said to the other half, well let's try an Air bed and breakfast it can't be any worse and it's only for one night. 

Maybe it's because I'm listening to an audio book by Bill Bryson, that I thought I would blog about the trip. The book is the follow up to Notes From A Small Island. (I can't recommend these books enough, they really are riveting and his observations are so spot on it makes you want to cheer loudly). The most inspiring sort of travel writing you are ever likely to read. 

So in my Bill Bryson mode I thought I would talk a bit about this area's highs and lows.  In a nutshell, Rye is gorgeous, every nook and cranny seems to be picture perfect, although parking is a bummer. It has quirky right up to it's eyeballs, there's even a shop(pictured above) which doesn't seem to have a name, never has its front door open and everything inside seems to be sold. But, it's the most interesting thing you will ever stumble across.

Hastings has some cool streets and seems to be on the up but St. Leonards and down to Eastbourne have areas that really have seen better days and it would be so lovely if something could be done to make them great again. 

This I believe is the nature of seasonally visited tourist towns and it's a shame, but while the buildings are struggling to keep up to standard, the beaches, promenades and the NATURE is spectacular. The area of countryside just above that stretch of coast is beautiful too, particularly now in it's autumn glory.  My eyes have been over saturated with the orange and red tones of the trees as we meandered up and down winding roads from Fairlight to Battle.

The light was very strange, there was a red stripe on the horizon like the sun was setting, or rising, but it was the middle of the day, this added to the dramatic effect of a slightly blustery day on the English coast. It was beautiful and raw and so far removed metaphorically to the cafes and restaurants along its shore side. Get your kagool on and explore, find driftwood, interesting stones, watch seagulls and marvel, it's like standing on the edge of the world. Then you cross the road and back you are ...

Am I the only person who has a problem with UHT milk in those little plastic containers? Why? Why? oh Why? do we still have them. The milk tastes gross, theres never enough in one for a cup of coffee or tea, and the containers don't bio-degrade.  So what's with that, why can't the cafe owners buy a pint of milk and put it in a jug? is that really too much to ask for.  This little plastic pot is neither here nor there.  It's not old-fashioned or modern, it's stuck somewhere in another age of ignorance and sadly it is reflective of some of the establishments one encounters in coastal towns. The kind of places that still have flourescent strip lighting and menus harking back to the 1970's, when the only Italian food the English had heard of was Spaghetti Bolognese and Lasagna. 

We found a few of these, hiding in different guises, one Italian restaurant purporting to be of great quality by its reviewers, had the most un-appetising pasta range and the food, when served was luke warm. Sat next to the front door, I dined in my coat on tepid and very over priced food.  

The Air b'n'b I chose was a very large house one block behind one of the hotels we stayed in last time so felt that this would make a good comparison. I'm happy to say that my experience was good, the room was larger, the bathroom not bad and it had it's own kitchen so you could rustle yourself up anything from toast to a meal should you fancy. The wifi was very good in our room, so all round, considering it was about 20 pounds cheaper than the cheapest hotel, we were impressed with what we got for just under 50 pounds. 

I'm quite fussy about interior decoration and attention to detail so I won't talk about that as it's personal taste.  Also some things you just have to pay extra for, like plush en-suite bathrooms (with a bath not just a shower), but unless you are pushing the proverbial boat out for a special date, then the compromise is value for money.

And so the French chair, well that came from a man with an e-bay shop and website called The French Depot and they have a huge stock of large pieces of furniture, well worth a look.  We found a second chair, in need of a lot of repair and also brought that home too so I will be trying my hand and fixing it up over Christmas.

It's a shame that the English coast struggles out of season to provide eateries.  If you are a food lover stick to Rye rather than take a chance on a seafront diner which may leave you out of pocket and still hungry.  

If, like us, you are shopping for Antiques then you will not be disappointed.  I have ordered some leather chair repair products so that I can have a go at this kind of re-upholstering/repairing and I will do a blog about it with my findings. That may be helpful to you if your budget will only stretch to one in disarray. 

If you need a blast of fresh air then I highly recommend nipping along to this area of coastline.

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