The old town of Rye.

Saturday 20 September 2014 – Rye, East Sussex – Part one…

September has turned into a bit of a busy month, something I am really pleased about as I had suspected that with work now in full swing I would get a bit tired and lazy and end up not doing too much at the weekends. However, this was a weekend away that El and I booked a few weeks ago, my birthday was on Wednesday and we decided we would celebrate it by going somewhere new, and for no reason other than it looked nice we picked the village of Rye, under two hours away by train on the south east coast.

I would like to say that we picked Rye as it was a coastal town worth investigating for a property, and factually speaking Rye was a coastal town – about 2000 years ago. Since then the shoreline has slowly moved away as the shallows around the entrance to the River Rother have silted up after bad storms in the 1200s and the town is now about two miles from the sea. Isn’t the earth amazing?

We met after work on Friday at St Pancras Station with the intention to get the fast train to Ashford where we would pick up another train that would take us to Rye. We had an hour to wait until the train we planned on getting left, but saw on the board that an earlier train was about to leave so we dashed down to the platform and jumped on the train – only to find it was the slowest of the slow Ashford trains, and it ran slowly as well. One of us was not happy. The train arrived late into Ashford, but with luck on our side the train to Rye was still in the station and we managed to jump just before it left, saving us another half an hour delay.

We arrived in Rye, slightly late, but in time to unpack and settle before the 8:30 reservation we had made in the hotel restaurant. It was dark when we arrived and there was a light fog settling in as well. The hotel was five minutes from the station and it was a little eerie walking up through the narrow streets surrounded by some quite old houses. One of the reasons we chose to stay in Rye is because it had a cool looking hotel – The Mermaid Inn, which we had chosen to stay in. The hotel has a very long – and quite chequered history, originally built in the 1100s it was rebuilt in 1420.

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Our room was on the top floor, up some narrow and creaky stairs, in an attic space under a gabled roof. It was pretty lovely, the first thing I did was take a look out the window, then grabbed my freshly fixed camera and took a time exposure out of the window of the Tudor houses in the street. I was so excited about getting out and about tomorrow morning !

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We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and while the food was good, it was extremely expensive, and sadly in our opinion not particularly good value. If I was paying that much in London I would have expected a lot more for the money. Service, ambiance and food.

The first thing I did when I woke up was to check out the window again to see if last night’s fog was still hanging around, and I was really pleased to see that it was. We decided we would take a brief walk around the village before breakfast to see what it looked like before too many people got up and before all the fog had lifted.

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IMG 0660It was pretty magic outside, though the worst of the fog had gone before got out the door. The old part of the town of Rye sits on a hill overlooking the old harbour. There have been people living here since before Roman times, though most of the buildings are from the 1400’s onwards as the French destroyed the town in the late 1300s.

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I knew there was an old fort – Ypres Tower, in the town and it didn’t take too long to find it, and of course we planned on visiting again later in the day – during opening hours. The fort was originally built in 1259 to defend against the constantly marauding French, in fact the name Rye comes from the French word, Rie – meaning sand bank.

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The view from the canon ramparts was not that spectacular in the fog…

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There was also some great doors and door signs!

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I loved this one…

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After a nice pre-feed walk we went back to the hotel for breakfast before starting out on our unplanned adventure for the day. We started with a quick tour around the inside of the Mermaid Inn. It is a glorious building, home for also sorts of people from ancient pirates to more recent actors and politicians (more pirates !).

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Room 19 is supposed to be haunted, I just had a peak in the door, didn’t see anything. But I noticed the people who stayed there had left….

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We decided to more thoroughly walk the village, we needed some cash and a map of the area, and ended up with both. Along with two pairs of boots for me and a small clock for El – we were not planning on shopping, honest ! We did go into the local, and quite cool second hand record shop -where we didn’t buy anything…

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Nor did we buy anything from one of the two old school sweet shops.

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At the end of one side of town is the Landgate, the last remaining old town gate from what was a fully walled town. The Landgate and the wall were started in the 1340s after a French invasion. To no avail as there was a further invasion in 1370 and the town was largely destroyed.

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The village is really lovely, it is definitely a tourist destination as it has been so well preserved – so many of these buildings are listed and therefore protected by law. Thank goodness.

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We headed back for a fascinating tour of Ypres Tower before stopping for lunch in a small cafe, just as the tourist crowds really started to arrive.

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Wow, so far so good !! It was a pretty packed day, so I will make this my first two part blog post ever 🙂