Saturday, November 5th, 2011 Winchelsea
Brightly colored fireworks exploded over our heads showering down bits of color this evening to our oohs and ahs as we watched the neighboring village of Ickelsham celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. Today is the day that celebrates the fact that Guy Fawkes was stopped in his action to burn down parliament some four hundred years ago.
Our day started early when I came down into the Library at our hotel in Canterbury to post the blog that I had written very late last night. By 9:30 we were all at breakfast and by 10:30 we were on the road heading southwest towards the English Channel. We suddenly spotted a sign about Antiques and there was an instant decision to stop and explore the shop. Bagham Barn was a treasure chest full of wonderful items that we’d love to purchase but the cost of shipping them home is unreal. I asked about the cost of shipping a beautiful writing desk; he said “if you pay $1,000.00 for the piece…to break even for a dealer in America he would have to sell it for $5,000.00.” WOW…so the purchases that were made were small enough to go into the suitcases for their trip to America!
An hour later we were back on the road, drove through Rye and on to the small village of Winchelsea, a seaside village on the English Channel. No rooms at the inn due to bonfires scheduled for tonight but we finally managed to obtain a room with three single beds at The Lodge on the outskirts of the village. Put our things into our room and then headed out for further explorations.
We headed in the direction of Hastings. I needed to read the map and pulled into a driveway to get off of the road. Decided to pull all the way in to turn the car around so we could get back on the highway safely; the owner of the house came out to give us some assistance…and I was sure to also check who was using his driveway without permission. Actually we found out that he was coming out to put up a chain across his driveway to prevent people from parking there during the bonfire celebration that evening in their village in a large field next to their home.
We soon found ourselves involved in a conversation with the gentlemen about California and the USA; before we left he invited us to return this evening to watch the festivities from his driveway. Then we were off to Hastings only about five more miles down the road.
We drove the length of the boardwalk that front all along the city between the main street and the English Channel. Heavy traffic and very few parking spaces; we turned around at the western edge of the town and headed back the way we’d just come. At the eastern end of town we found parking and I walked down to the beach to put my fingers into the cold waters of the English Channel before picking up a few stones to take home. Hastings is the site of the battle of Hastings in 1066 that put William the Conqueror on the throne of England when he defeated King Harold. This battle is the subject of the tapestries of Bayeux in France. We found a clever fellow with a sailor hat that let us take his picture and then invited us to do candid shots with him as he did the Popeye pose. Barbara was busy shopping and missed out on the fun!
Back to the hotel for dinner before heading out to see the fireworks and bonfire shows about 6:30 pm. We pulled into the driveway; and we’d hardly parked when the owner came out and invited us to join him and his wife on the rooftop for a better view of the show. We went into the house and up to the rooftop through a small window at the top of some steep and narrow stairs!
Nick and Barbara were wonderful hosts for the hour that we waited for the festivities to begin. It was very dark and VERY cold but everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. We could see the dark outline of the huge bonfire pyre in the field and people walking around with torches, both electric and many old fashioned torches that were on fire.
The program is sponsored by the local pub in Ickelsham called Robin Hood. Tickets are sold to raise funds for a charity event. In the very large field behind the pub they had built a bonfire pyre that appeared to be at least twenty feet tall; on the top was an effigy of Guy Fawkes in a chair. We’re told that sometimes they call the dummy by a politician’s name that is out of favor at the time. The people who do the bonfire are called “the bonfire boys”; most of the villagers are involved in the festivities, they dress in costume and we could hear the chanting and drums as they paraded around.
Suddenly the sky lit up and the fireworks show began….a shower of sparkling colors over our heads; at times it was like they were going to land on our heads but they always flickered out long before that could happen. The show went on and on; we couldn’t believe the length of the display. When the final sparkle died; they marched around the pyre torching it with their torches for a blaze that was so hot we could feel the heat from the flames.
We said goodbye to our new found friends and invited them to visit us on their next trip to the USA. People have continued to surprise us with their hospitality throughout out trip but this was truly above and beyond. We said no to the offer of refreshments and headed back to the hotel to warm our frozen toes!
And so we have ended another marvelous serendipity day of surprises. Tomorrow is a new adventure when we will meet Barbara’s friends for a night at the Mermaid Hotel in Rye; only about ten miles from our hotel tonight. The morning will probably be church services and antique shopping. Thanks for joining us for another day on our trip.