A Travellerspoint blog

Visitation Station


View Summer on broden's travel map.

I had my first visitor, A., this week and it was so nice to see her and get a slice of Toronto! While I unfortunately still had to go to work during the days we got the chance to hang out in the evenings and on the weekend. It was so much fun to indulge in A's anglophilia and wander the streets of Brighton, play cards with my co-workers, enjoy a picnic, and hang out on the beach:

large_blogannieonpier.jpg

After an afternoon exploring the guts of the Royal Pavilion (and what strange guts they are) we enjoyed a pitcher of Pimms, a delicious and refreshing British drink of mint, English lemonade and fresh fruit:

large_blogpimms.jpg

This is the perfect fruity summer drink! A. tells me it is for old British ladies but I could get hooked.

On Saturday we decided to go for a hike at the Seven Sisters. When we left Brighton the sun was out and there were no clouds in the sky. The winding bus takes about an hour to get to the Country Park. You may recall that the last time I went I was caught in the rain and became rapidly drenched and miserable. This time we felt lucky. However, as we approached the Seven Sisters the fog descended and obliterated the blue skies. That didn't deter us. Besides, it didn't rain and at least the sheep were content (or bored):

large_blogsevensisterssheep.jpg

And this little egret:

large_blogsevensistersbird.jpg

Trekking over the foggy undulating cliffs we made our way over all seven sisters. The tide is out and the sea is hiding behind the fog:

large_blogsevensisters.jpg

Sheep fence into the abyss:

large_blogsheepfence.jpg

A. sitting on one of the numerous, and varying, sheep gates you need to crawl over:

large_bloganniea..sisters.jpg

At the end of the trail we arrived at Birling Gap and ate cake while waiting for the bus to Eastbourne, a large resort town with a famous Victorian seafront and pier:

large_blogeastbournepier.jpg

View from the Pier:

large_blogviewfr..rnepier.jpg

As you can see the fog had mostly lifted though it wafted in from time to time like smoke:

large_blogviewfr..nepier2.jpg

A. and I dipped our feet in the water (still cold) and then searched for crabs and fish in the tidal pools, hopping from seaweed covered rock to seaweed covered rock:

large_blogannietidalpools.jpg

I was obsessed with trying to get a picture of Beachy Head at the edge of Eastbourne but the fog conspired against me:

large_blogeastbournecliffs.jpg

large_blogeastbournecliffs2.jpg

A. left Sunday morning which was sad. I am now scrambling to finish my work in time for my departure to Scotland on Friday. I can't wait.

Posted by broden 13:52 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad

Focus on Brighton: 5 Acts


View Summer on broden's travel map.

As my friends at home celebrate Pride I find myself exceedingly busy with school work now as crunch time has kicked in. I have approximately two weeks to finish my own research from home, my placement at the University of Brighton and the Brussels course. On Tuesday A. comes to town for a week (!) and then on July 16th I meet my brother in Scotland (!). But in the spirit of procrastination I thought I would compile some Brighton highlights since I've recently been using this blog to focus on everywhere else.

These are in no particular order:

1. Banksy's 'The Kiss'

large_Brighton__..ay__001.jpg

This was one of Bansky's "non-commissioned" works and sits on the side of the Prince Albert Pub on Trafalgar street. It also bears the distinction of being one of Brighton's most photographed sites. In 2006 it was severely defaced but somehow they salvaged it and subsequently stuck it under plastic. Apparently locals hate when you take pictures of it.

I am not that Banksy crazy though I do like stencils and I appreciate the use of urban landscapes. I think his work is generally creative and ultimately he makes cities more interesting to look at. Besides, love him or hate him he gets people talking about the use, purpose and definition of art and how it is or is not wed to politics. But even more then that, I'm fascinated by his growing cultural significance and the ongoing Banksy-mania. In 2008 one of his images, a six meter long spray painting called 'Laugh now', depicting a row of chimps wearing placards emblazoned, 'Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge' sold for £200,000! Hell, even Toronto got a taste of it in May (thanks A.). And if that doesn't convince you nothing says you made it like swarms of celebrity collectors including Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera.

2. Preston Park: Rose Garden

large_blogrosegarden.jpg

Every time I walk home from downtown Brighton I peak into the rose garden in Preston Park. For weeks I was waiting for something to happen but the thorny plants laid dormant waiting for the right time and combination of elements. Finally, these was an explosion of colours as the roses bloomed. According to Wikipedia Preston Park, "remains green throughout the summer because of a non-drinkable underground water source, known as the Wellesbourne, which runs below Preston Park, London Road and The Level. The source dates back many centuries and is often referred to as Brighton's lost river." That's pretty cool, right? Sometimes I lay on the grass, staring at the sky and think about how far away I am from Canada. I can't help but miss everyone and have a nostalgic longing for summer in Toronto.

3. The Grand Hotel

large_blograndhotel.jpg

Right on the seafront you find the Grand Hotel famous for the 1984 IRA assassination attempt on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet which came to be known as the 'Brighton hotel bombing'. The bomb was planted three weeks prior to the conservative party conference and when it detonated it blew out a chunk of the hotel and killed five people. However, Thatcher escaped unscathed and went on to rule Britain for another six years.

Last month there was a minor flurry of controversy when John McDonnell, one of the leadership contenders for the Labour party, joked he wanted to go back in time to assassinate Thatcher. Apparently he got a standing ovation from the crowd who still remember the burn of Thatcher's neo-liberal domestic and foreign policies. Outside of those walls his comment led to subsequent national hand wringing on the nature of humour/joking in politics, the so-called advocacy of violence and the Baroness herself. He later apologized.

4. Royal Pavilion Park

large_blogpavillion.jpg

The Royal Pavilion is this odd complex sitting in the middle of downtown Brighton. Built in 1787 as the seaside home of George, Prince of Wales (later George IV) people have struggled to describe it, making comparisons to a Norfolk turnip, the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, a chessboard and the Kremlin. It is pretty surreal. I've spent many afternoons wandering through the courtyard or sitting in the cafe sipping coffee. Like most outdoor spaces in Brighton in the summer it is always packed with children, dogs and buskers, everyone sprawled out and trying to enjoy the relatively good weather (for England). When I told my friend C. that it seemed like no one really works in Brighton she said that was because it was true! She said that the city is so full of students and people working shift work in the service industry that the 9-5 crowd really is a minority. You can totally tell.

5. Palace Pier at Night

large_blogpier.jpg

Most weeks my friends from work suggest we head down to the pier in the evening to drink beer while lounging on the beach, tossing pebbles, and playing cards. We watch the sunset over Brighton and see the city get progressively drunker as the sun retreats. By the time darkness falls people are swarming the streets, clutching bottles and looking for fun and/or fights. Everything smells like cheap cologne, urine and the sea. On those nights (which is really every night) Brighton really feels like a young city exhibiting a combination of bravado, desperation and the pursuit of good times at any cost. By 10 pm the actual pier closes but the lights stay on, flashing and dancing out patterns. There is something so soothing and mesmerizing in watching those lights and for some brief moments it's like time stands still.

Posted by broden 10:27 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad

Howth

sunny
View Summer on broden's travel map.

DAY 4

Nearly a week has passed since my return to Brighton and this entry will complete my Ireland voyage. This means you have more England to look forward to until Scotland in mid-July.

Tuesday was my last day. To start with, my supervisor R. connected me with a woman (C-A) who works at a LGBT youth organization in downtown Dublin. She also happened to be this really nice LGBT activist lady with eccentric glasses and an Irish drawl. We had coffee in Temple Bar and she was so refreshing to speak to! Until a few months ago she had been a social work prof at Ryerson and only recently returned to Dublin. Moving seamlessly from domestic and foreign policies in Ireland and Canada we chatted about LGBT rights in Ireland, trans rights particularly, immigration and xenophobia in the EU, the rise of the BNP/fascism in Britain, the G8/G20 (and lake), etc. It was so good to be able to engage in those critical conversations so openly! I felt connected again and excited. I guess I didn't realize how much I had missed those interactions/conversations.

Riding high on the conversation and caffeine I headed out to Howth (rhymes with 'both' or alternatively 'bot' depending on who you speak to) which is another suburb of Dublin. Whereas Dalkey was south, Howth is north-east of the city centre. I took the DART again and found myself in a thriving little fishing town with a huge harbour. As I was wandering along the pier I heard a lot of "ohhhhs." Naturally i went to see what the commotion was about. Below me, in the harbour waters were about eight seals hanging out around the boats and begging for fish. I mean, who doesn't theoretically like seals? Maybe fish and penguins. And they are a novelty for me since there are no harbour seals in Lake Ontario. But when you stop to watch them you see that they hover hungrily with beady little eyes staring up at you and you kind of feel like they are big (6 ft + ) swimming rats. I mean, I'm not sure this picture is really a testament to this but take my word for it:

large_blogseals.jpg

People who don't know raccoons think they are cute too.

As I left the harbour area I took this picture of the Ireland's Eye (Island) and the calm waters:

large_bloghowth.jpg

There is a cliff path that circles Howth Head and takes about four hours to complete and traverses the "wilder parts" of the peninsula. Sadly, I didn't have four hours but I did make it around half of it and it was really spectacular:

large_bloghowthcliff.jpg

large_bloghowthpath.jpg

You aren't allowed to walk along this path in bad weather because you can get easily swept away into the oblivion below:

large_Bloglookingdown.jpg

For a brief moment on the cliff top I fantasized that A. and I would runaway to Ireland and live on the edge of the cliff, catching lobsters and sailing boats. It didn't matter that I don't know how to do either of those activities or that I'm a city kid at heart. It was such serenity and such splendor:

large_bloghowthhead2.jpg

Sadly, time slips by and my flight out was at 7:15 pm. I took a bus straight from Howth to the airport and was back in Brighton in three hours!

Posted by broden 11:20 Archived in Ireland Tagged living_abroad

Dalkey and the Wicklow Mountains

sunny
View Summer on broden's travel map.

DAY 2

On my second day in Ireland I woke up early to take the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) to Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin and home to Enya and most of U2 (Bono and The Edge). That's like two-thirds of Irish music exports found in one tiny village! Not surprisingly, I didn't see them but I did see Coliemore harbour with its view of Dalkey Island:

large_blogdalkeyharbour.jpg

And this beautiful view. Many of the houses hugging this bay have Italian-sounding names (e.g. Vico, Sorrento, Nerano, etc.) and I read that it was because the residents often compare this area to the Bay of Naples:

large_blogdalkeybay.jpg

I stumbled upon a nudist swimming hole and found myself chatting to an old Irish man. He was both naked and incomprehensible which was a bit awkward. The sun was so hot and the sea so sparkling that I couldn't resist going in. I wasn't the only one in trunks, the other young people were clothed. Interesting that it works that way. But even though the air was hot the water was still brutally cold. I didn't last longer than four minutes:

large_blogswimminghole.jpg

And I forgot to take my wallet out of my back pocket which is a really classic Brody move. So, after the four icy minutes in the sea I spent the next twenty minutes peeling receipts off bills and arranging everything to dry in the sun.

After this minor debacle I headed up Killiney Hill for a better vantage point and a view of where the Wicklow Mountains meet the water. In Ireland, like the UK, they don't believe in guard rails so you can go clamoring up rocks and sit on the edge of cliffs at your own discretion. As I sat there I felt my skin sizzling pink. Ireland is not generally known for its heat or its sun but it was so beautiful the whole time I was there. I think I have a really twisted image of the country as a beautiful sunny wonderland:

large_blogviewfr..neyhill.jpg

Here is a view from Killiney hill back at Dublin:

large_blogviewofdublin.jpg

I walked to Sandycove, home of the Martello tower that is famous for being featured in the opening passages of Ulysses and was also James Joyce's home for a while. I have this vague memory of my former roommate, E., trying to read Finnegans Wake and it not going so well. But she was Irish so it was a matter of nationalist pride. I bought Ulysses at the airport and it is similarly not going so well, however, I am not Irish so I don't know how I am going to make it through. Anyway, in Sandycove I watched the harbour seals chase boats until my sun burn was so bad I needed to return to the sweet relief of indoors. But not before I climbed over the rocks and took this picture:

large_blogsandycove.jpg

I returned to Dublin and napped in the shade of a city park before returning to the hostel. Oh man, don't even get me started on hostels. For $15 CAD/night you have the oddly intimate experience of sleeping with twelve strangers cramped into poorly ventilated spaces sharing bunk beds. Not ideal but I can sleep anywhere so it worked.

DAY 3

After spending all Sunday by the sea I moved inland into the Wicklow Mountains. They are unreachable by public transportation and therefore require a car or a tour. Since, I don't have a car or a license I was forced to go with the guided tour. The only time I've ever done that was with my mom in Vienna. In this case, 14 people crowded into an over-sized van, basically an Irish clown car, and they drove us to the mountains. But look how excited I am to be there:

large_blogbrodyi..untains.jpg

Basically we would tumble out of the van, snap pictures and then pile back in:

large_blogwicklowmountains.jpg

They say this lake is the colour of Guinness. Apparently Michael Jackson and his brood would come play around this private lake:

large_blogwicklowmountains2.jpg

As part of the tour we stopped at Glendalough which is a major tourist attraction home to a monastery founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. The monastery was a center of learning for over 600 years, surviving several raids by the Vikings. A lot of the site was destroyed in 1398 but this remains, totally beautiful and totally stereotypically Irish:

large_blogwicklowmountains3.jpg

Here is the lower lake at Glendalough:

large_bloglowerlake.jpg

The tour guide told us that Mel Gibson filmed 90% of Braveheart in Ireland (though it is supposedly a Scottish movie). In part this was due to taxation laws as the Irish won't tax you on what you produce if you are a resident. But another reason was that Mel came into the Wicklow Mountains, looked around, and said, "This looks exactly like Scotland." So you have the Irish Reserve Army playing Scots (and English men) and running around the Wicklow Mountains. Usually, however, the area is used for more mundane activities like sheep herding:

large_blogsheepmountains.jpg

I'm obsessed with mountains. I love being in them, around them, beside them, etc. We returned to Dublin 9 hours later, exhausted from the constant piling in/piling out and the hot hot sun. Back in Dublin, on my second last day, I knew they wouldn't let me off the island without drinking some Guinness so I did and it was actually pretty good.

Just one more entry...

Posted by broden 15:43 Archived in Ireland Tagged living_abroad

Dublin

sunny
View Summer on broden's travel map.

DAY 1

I found a ridiculously cheap flight ($65 CAD/Return) from Gatwick to Dublin a few weeks ago so I booked it on a whim and arrived mid-afternoon last Saturday. I liked Dublin immediately because it was a breathing city; The streets were jam packed with tourists but also people living, working and killing time. I got swept away in aimless directions (re: lost) and crisscrossed the Liffey, the river that divides the city into north and south banks:

large_blogdublin.jpg

A very skinny building on the north bank:

large_blogdublinstreets.jpg

My supervisor, R., sent me to Temple Bar which is is like Dublin's (even more) gentrified medieval answer to Queen West including tucked away art galleries and rowdy bars. When I first arrived they were doing a cycling event that closed down the streets to pedestrians and witnessed kamikaze street cyclists careening down the narrow cobbled streets. But I actually took this picture at 7:30 am on my second day which explains why it is totally deserted, really a rare state:

large_blogtemplebar.jpg

At every corner you can buy postcards of the Georgian doors of Dublin and they are apparently a huge draw for the city. This one was my favourite:

large_blogpinkdoor.jpg

Here is the old Medieval city wall built circa 1240 and this is the sole surviving city gate which would have been one of the main entrances into the medieval city:

large_blogcitywalls.jpg

And this last picture isn't very specific but I thought it was a fair sentiment:

large_blogirishstreetart.jpg

Life has been chaotic with work, the brutal football matches and friends that I have had difficulty staying up to date with this blog. But there are two more Ireland entries to come and really, it's all about the pictures anyway.

Posted by broden 15:36 Archived in Ireland Tagged living_abroad

Swansea & Mumbles

overcast
View Summer on broden's travel map.

The second day in Wales was not as successful as the first. We had been warned about Cardiff by our Welsh boss who when asked about the city just shrugged and said, "I like Swansea better." Therefore, with only two days to cover southern Wales we woke up early on Sunday and headed out to Swansea which is about 1.5 hours north west of Cardiff. Swansea is the third largest city in Wales (pop: 230,000) and a former copper town. Like all respectable villages in the UK it hosts a ruined castle, this one was built in 1106:

large_blogswansea.jpg

I'm a sucker for castles but this one was pretty small and not that well preserved. But beyond the quaint little center town which is largely being run over by big box shopping centers anyway there is the derelict side of Swansea. So many buildings were boarded up with flora liberating itself from windows and rooftops:

large_blogswansea2.jpg

Tennessee Fried Chicken, really?

Our boss had also advised us to locate some laver cakes which he pronounced as lava cake, something entirely different. Thus, while I pictured a chocolate cake oozing liquid chocolate he was talking about a traditional Welsh breakfast treat of seaweed, oatmeal and lard (yum?). He told us we could get them at the Swansea market so we went but were struck by the sad reality that, like the English, the Welsh take their Sundays very seriously and EVERYTHING was closed. So, no laver cakes.

Our last stop was Mumbles and by the time we reached the small town the wind and greyness had moved in. Nonetheless, we ate our lunch by the water and walked along the coast. As you can see the tide had pulled all the way out, leaving the boats stranded for now:

large_blogmumbles.jpg

Around the other side of the pier there were kids hunting crabs in the small pools of water and an 18th century lighthouse that looked back towards Swansea. There was a rough rocky hill that I climbed up to take this picture:

large_blogmumbles2.jpg

As I was descending the rock it began to rain so we took refuge in a coffee shop drinking warm beverages and eating local treats before getting on the bus back to Swansea and then the train back to Brighton.

What can I say about Wales? I loved being on the top of the mountain under the warm sun and I am obsessed with going to Rhossili Bay (which is farther out then Mumbles) but the southern cities of Cardiff and Swansea were disappointing. They were dull and lacked character, largely overrun by chain stores like Zara and H & M. I had the distinct feeling that they could be any mediocre city anywhere in the West.

I've heard some English people say that the Welsh have lost their culture but the Welsh have been fighting back. A big part of this has been the reclamation of their language which is featured on every sign. As a foreigner it appears as an incomprehensible jumble of unfriendly consonants and rarely placed (or non-existent) vowels (e.g. We went to what the town that the English call Mumbles but is written Mwmbwls in Welsh. How would you even pronounce that?). In the south, where we were, it was very bilingual though I have heard it is much less so in the north.

I'm still interested in Wales and A. and I are considering a return in early August. If I had more time I would spend a week driving around the north, from little village to little village and camping in the national parks. I think it would be beautiful and a way to see Wales as it should be.

Now it's back to work for the week and then Ireland next weekend!

Posted by broden 15:36 Archived in Wales Tagged living_abroad

Climbing Pen Y Fan

Brecon Beacon National Park

sunny
View Summer on broden's travel map.

Ever since I arrived in the UK I had been planning a trip to Wales (or what the Welsh call Cymru). There is something mysterious about this little country that sits on the hip of England and has been subsumed within the larger United Kingdom. I told my three co-workers that I wanted to go and they said they wanted to come. So on Saturday morning we left Brighton at 5:20 am and made it into Cardiff, Wales around 10 am. We dumped our bags at the hostel and headed straight to Brecon Beacon, a huge national park in the south. While Brighton is a pretty town I think we were all craving more dramatic scenery. They say the Welsh countryside is the last truly "wild" place in the United Kingdom but that requires a car and more time than we had. Since we couldn't make it that far north in one weekend we settled for Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in Southern Wales at 886 meters (2,907 ft) above sea level.

After consistently moody weather over the last few weeks it was such a relief to get the shining sun and bright blue sky. We trekked upwards through pastures of lazy sheep grazing and communicating via cartoonish baaaa-ing. As someone who grew up in the heart of Toronto I find sheep vaguely fascinating though they did not seem to feel the same way about me:

large_blogupthemountain1.jpg

As we came over the ridge this was our first view of Pen Y Fan with the distinctive flat top. Perspective is a funny thing since it looks remarkably close but was actually quite a long way up from here:

large_blogupthemountain1_5.jpg

As current and former smokers we arrived at the summit breathless and sweaty from exertion but it was worth it:

large_blogupthemountain2.jpg

My traveling companions at the edge:

large_blogupthemountain3.jpg

The view:

large_blogupthem..untain4.jpg

And again:

large_blogviewfromtop.jpg

On the way down I met this ewe who was was not as ambitious as her peers who graze along the steep ridges of the mountains:

large_blogsheep.jpg

At the end of the trail there was a creek and mini waterfall. It was so good to lay in the sun with my feet resting in the cool fresh water. I couldn't help but feel this swollen sense of contentment in the fact that we were hanging out in the beautiful Welsh countryside:

large_blogcreek2.jpg

We returned to the hostel in the evening full of fresh air but little sleep. We played epic rounds of card games in the courtyard while drinking British beer and eating World Cup themed crisps (e.g. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding). In the background the football match (England vs. USA) played with a pretty muted response. The Welsh don't tend to cheer for England but since they tied there wasn't much to cheer anyway. By midnight I was asleep and ready for day two.

Posted by broden 04:15 Archived in Wales Tagged living_abroad

Preston Park: A Study


View Summer on broden's travel map.

After living in Brighton for almost 6 weeks I have grown comfortable in my neighbourhood which sits just outside the downtown core, marked by a huge railway underpass and defined by one of the largest parks in the city, Preston Park. I love this park. It takes me just three minutes to get to there from my house and there are so many nooks and crannies, tiny paths under overgrowth, blossoming plants, etc. Sometimes I just go there and lay in the sun, watching people playing football or kids smoking shisha. Every time I walk through the park I find something new.

Today I went to the park and found this walled garden:

large_secretgardenforblog.jpg

Past the walled garden and hidden behind flint walls is a 13th century church, St. Peter's:

large_stpetersforblog.jpg

Here is a view of the south side of St. Peter's and its cemetery:

large_churchforblog.jpg

One particularly overgrown headstone:

large_headstoneforblog.jpg

In the middle of the park sits a Victorian clock tower with weird statues of children riding these iconic fish (they are the same fish statues that run along the Thames in London):

Preston_Pa..10__029.jpg

On the other side of the park is the Rockery placed on a hill overlooking Preston Park proper. At first glance it looks quite small but winding paths twist behind what is immediately visible. In fact, it's one of the biggest city-owned rock gardens in Britain:

large_rockgardenforblog2.jpg

There is also a small pond to cross with enormous fish from the carp/goldfish family (unseen) that nibble at the surface:

large_rockgardenforblog.jpg

Today in the sun it felt like summer had finally arrived.

Posted by broden 07:07 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad

Not Everything is as it Appears


View Summer on broden's travel map.

After a long night of celebrating my co-workers birthday I woke up painfully early to head out to the Fishbourne Roman Palace which is the largest and earliest Roman residence in Britain. The palace ruins are located just over an hour west of Brighton by train and nestled in the tiny village of Fishbourne (pop:1,953). It was built in the 1st century AD, around thirty years after the Roman conquest of Britain on the site of a Roman army supply base established at the Claudian invasion in 43 AD. The original Palace had three wings with approximately one hundred rooms, most of which had mosaic floors. There was also a large Roman garden.

To be honest I went for the mosaics. My dad's obsession with this particular form of art made me curious to see the British version. The earliest mosaics at the palace are black geometric patterns on a white background, something that was apparently popular in Italy at the time. According to the display, the mosaicists probably also came from Italy since no one in Britain would have had the necessary expertise. However, the materials were local. The white tesserae come from lower chalk while the dark grey comes from limestone. This one is from approx 75-80 AD:

large_mosaicforblog3.jpg

Here is the most famous, and best preserved, mosaic found at Fishbourne laid in 160 AD and appropriately titled, 'Cupid on a Dolphin.' Here you see cupid sitting astride a dolphin with a trident in his hand. They are surrounded by what the website calls, "a border of braided guilloche" and flanked by semi-circles containing sea horses and sea panthers, wine vases and scallop shells:

large_mosaicforblog.jpg

Here is another one from the second century AD:

large_mosaicforblog2.jpg

The palace was virtually destroyed by a fire in 270 AD and subsequently abandoned. Later it was desecrated by ploughs and thieves so only the north wing remains intact. While the site makes many references to Pompeii (e.g. similar mosaic designs) it lacks both the detail and grandeur of even smaller sites like Hadrian's Villa. While it is undeniable that the Romans left their mark on England what I found truly fascinating was it all seemed so out of place. The unknown ruler of the palace had created a mini-Roman world replete with mosaics comprised of the warm Mediterranean hues that make sense in Italy but seem strange when firmly situated in the South Downs that are frequented by more muted colours and grey skies/rain. It's a good thing they knew all about under floor heating. I stood in the re-done Roman garden looking at a spindly looking Cyprus tree and it all seemed a bit odd.

After Fishbourne I decided to take the train from Chichester to London. I went because there was a huge protest against the Gaza aid flotilla raids. More than 20,000 people from across Britain flooded into the streets of Kensington in London in protest of the IDF raids and murders of activists in international waters on May 31, 2010. There were at least 40 British nationals on those boats and the British government (like other EU countries) have by and large been more critical than, say, the US or Canadian governments. But the protest was about more than that. It was reflective of the growing global pressure on Israel to end the Gaza blockade which has caused a humanitarian crisis through the collective punishment (in contravention of the Geneva Convention) of Palestinians that has been decried and condemned by everyone from the United Nations to Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch to the International Committee of the Red Cross, etc. They are joined by the powerhouses of the left like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, and Naomi Klein who offer both insight and a critical voice on this issue. Hell, even Margaret Atwood and Elvis Costello have recently stepped into the fray. At the demonstration there were the unmistakable dual emotions of hope and determination and I couldn't help but feel, to use a somewhat cliched protest phrase, that the whole world is watching. Now if only that will translate to meaningful and lasting change:

large_Fishbourne..10__044.jpg

After the demonstration I went for a walk through Kensington and Chelsea. Unsurprisingly, Chelsea in particular holds my imagination. One blogger asserted that by 1968 Chelsea's main artery, King’s Road, had become the Hippest Street in the World. It was soon home to Vivienne Westwood's boutique "SEX", and witnessed the birth of the British punk movement via the Sex Pistols. Now it is beautiful but boring. I wandered through the streets and at one point was taking a photo of an eccentric (and old) looking building. A man sweeping the sidewalk asked me to guess how old it was. I said I didn't know. He pressed me so I guessed its origins as Art Nouveau because of the gold trim and outlandishness of the design. He said it was built from the ground in 1984. The owners bought an old property sign that read '1928' and replaced the '9' with a plastic '7' that they painted black so it read '1728.' He said tourists always take pictures of it when the building directly adjacent to it, a much more modest structure, is actually the oldest building in Chelsea at 300 years old:

large_Fishbourne..10__062.jpg

As I walked away he warned me, "not everything is as it appears."

Posted by broden 13:15 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad

In Search of Harry Potter and Robin Hood

rain 11 °C
View Summer on broden's travel map.

I want to start this entry by saying that last weekend was phenomenally beautiful and warm. The sun was hot and the sky was clear. It was so nice that I actually went into the water, up to my neck and floated about. Don't get me wrong, this was ambitious. It was the gasping kind of cold. But still. I watched a magic show at the Marina and capped off the Brighton festival with a circus and fireworks. However, this week has seen a dramatic return to frigidity and grayness, which is very unfortunate given the reported weather in Toronto.

This Saturday I went to the Seven Sisters Country Park which is about an hour away by bus. The Seven Sisters form part of the South Downs in East Sussex, between the towns of Seaford and Eastbourne. These are really just an extension of the cliffs from my last entry, farther east and more dramatic.

When I left the house it was gray and threatening, a kind of heaviness that hovers over England. But since it is almost always like that, I took no notice. I assumed, and this was faulty, that it would either stay the same or get nicer. You see, stereotypes about English weather abound. Like the British I use common adjectives like damp, dreary, bleak, gloomy, and so on to describe the days. And the truth is it is colder, rainier and far more unpredictable than North American weather. So when I left it seemed reasonable that it would remain overcast or perhaps give way to drizzle. That is not what happened. Instead, I was caught in a blustering storm, accompanied by horizontal rain and light fog. If only pictures could capture the whistling sound of wind and thick sheets of rain.

Already drenched I was staring up at the cliffs:

large_cuckmerehavencliff.jpg

Since it had taken me over an hour to get there I decided to climb the cliffs anyway. From the top you could see an aerial view of Cuckmere Haven, the flood plains where the river Cuckmere meets the English Channel. According to Wikipedia the beach at Cuckmere Haven was used for the opening scene in Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves while the Seven Sisters cliff face was briefly featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

large_viewofcuck..omcliff.jpg

And the valley floor:

large_sevensistersblog.jpg

When I reached the top I looked over truly amazing undulating cliffs. Sadly, by this point my pants were soaked through, my shoes were puddling and the wind stole the moisture from my eyes. The weather was so bad I didn't dare take my camera out. It reminded me of the ill-fated trip A. and I took to Cape Spear in Newfoundland when there was a blizzard in May. At least we had each other. I abandoned this adventure in a state of utter soggyness. As I was waiting for the bus to take me home I had some sheep (and lamb) tv:

large_sevensisterssheep.jpg

I can unequivocally say that was the least fun I've had since I've been here. But I'm dedicated to making it over all seven of the sisters. Next time.

Posted by broden 13:13 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad

(Entries 11 - 20 of 30) « Page 1 [2] 3 »