To Avalon

Last Tuesday, I said goodbye to Karen and Colin (excellent hosts!) in Oxford and headed to Rochester in Kent to stay overnight with my friends Peter and Krys. Although we keep up on Facebook, I hadn't seen them in three years, so it's always a treat to visit their sweet little house, which they call Avalon.

We decided to drive down to Elham, a tiny village not far from the English Channel to have dinner at the Rose & Crown. Once we turned off the motorway, it was like stepping into a postcard: the narrow roads lined with hedgerows, the green, gently rolling hills, the amazing late afternoon light. Elham and the Rose & Crown are not tourist traps, so it was cool to get a glimpse of rural village life in the UK. Peter and Krys said they had been driving down to eat there for 20 years, and the food did not disappoint. I had a big steak and chips, and it was perfectly cooked.

After dinner, we drove down to Dymchurch to visit Ian at his home on the Channel. We drove along the sea wall and there were still Martello towers and gun placements left over from the Napoleonic Wars and used during World Wars I and II. At Ian's, we walked up a short path to the sea wall and there was the English Channel. It was a bit hazy, but you could see the lighthouse at Dungeness and, very faintly, pinpoints of light from France across the 22-mile stretch.

We all sat around Ian's kitchen table drinking wine, talking about music, people we know and love (and a few we hate) and tasting an assortment of cheeses, including marmite (not as bad as I thought it would be). We laughed, cried, laughed and had a fantastic time. I fell asleep on the drive home, so it seemed I closed my eyes as we were leaving Dymchurch and magically awoke in Rochester.

The next morning, Krys took me out to her wonderful little studio in the back garden for our photo shoot. It had always been Krys' dream to start her own photography business and she's finally taken the plunge. Her work is stunning. She has such an amazing eye for capturing faces and moods, and I was honored to be one of her subjects. The photos of me are the best ever taken, which I put down to being comfortable in the studio, being in England and the photographer knowing just went to click the shutter. Thank you, Krys, for making me look fab.

In the afternoon, I packed up again and Krys and Peter drove me over to Greenwich to see my friend, John. We spent the afternoon having tea, talking about music, writing, the state of poetry and publishing.  His house always smells like incense and his garden is absolutely magical. I always feel a little transported when I'm there -- maybe a little The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe-ish.

That evening, I caught the train and made my way to the Tavistock Hotel in Bloomsbury, where I encountered the first minor nightmare of my trip. The hotel had no record of my reservation and when they called Travelocity to confirm, they were no help either. Despite being told by three different people that the hotel was full, they somehow managed to put me in a room overlooking Tavistock Square. The television didn't work and when I came downstairs to use wi-fi in the lobby, the keycard mechanism on my door malfunctioned and I couldn't get back inside. It took two people using pliers and long thin skeleton keys to finally force the door, but once inside, I couldn't leave the room again until I was checking out. Maybe the lost reservation was a sign.

Since I was basically under house arrest, I did a little writing, watched Ashes to Ashes on my laptop and went to bed early since I was leaving the next morning for Paris.


London is London - I'm glad you also took in other parts of lovely England.
Collin Kelley said…
Andie, it was really an amazing experience. I love England.

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