England Travelogue – Day 6&7, Somerset & Hants


On day 6 of our England sojourn, we had to get up at an ungodly hour in order to get Christa & Mik, our daughter and son-in-law to Gatwick airport in time for their respective flights. I don’t recall the exact times because my mind tends to block out such unpleasant memories. I do recall that the length of the check-in line for EasyJet was enough for me to try to avoid them in future. Anyone who was anal enough to show up more than 2 hours in advance would spend the lion’s share of that time in the line. Anyone else would stand in line until about 30 minutes before their flight and then get ushered ahead of the bulk of the aforementioned suckers. A ridiculously inefficient system that likely causes more than its share of temper flare-ups and anxiety.

Having fulfilled our parental duties and unwittingly contributed to the Gatwick Airport redevelopent fund by means of the exorbitant parking fee, we headed off for Somerset to meet Dorothy’s aunt Anne. Once again, our Tom-Tom informed us that we needed to steel ourselves for another dodgem car session on the M25. In my mind, I think of London as a huge ant’s nest and the M25 represents the millions of worker ants dragging their flotsam and jetsam hither and yon according to some master plan unknown to the individuals in question.If you are getting the impression that I am not altogether a fan of this necessary evil, you are right on the mark.

Once we emerged from purgatory and traffic was down to a dull roar, we thought about stopping for breakfast. I must admit that, on the whole, I find Britain’s motorway services to be superior to those of North America and we decided to take a risk on one. You can read our full experience here. With full stomachs, we set out once more heading West.

Burnham on Sea turned out to be one of those quaint little English seaside towns where one imagines that retired blue collar workers go to live out their lives ambling along the seafront or perhaps participating in a rousing game of lawn bowling. We didn’t actually get to see that much of it but you can quickly get the flavour by perusing the municipal website. You might also want to check out their 24hour webcam which is pointed at the town’s main claim to fame: the shortest pier in the UK. Although we weren’t exactly ravenously hungry at this point, Anne treated us to a very pleasant meal at Bonomo Ristorante.

By mid-afternoon, we were once more on the move slowly heading back to Eastbourne, with our next stop being overnight in Portsmouth with an old schoolfriend of  Dorothy’s who she met during her extended stay on St. Vincent in the Caribbean. Now I am sure that there are lots of things to both do and see in the Portsmouth area but this time around, we were only going to have time to visit with friends (and briefly at that). We enjoyed a home-cooked meal and a great evening chatting like we had been close friends for years when  two of us had never even met before. Once again, our gracious English hosts left us with free range of their home in the morning and we had a leisurely breakfast of cereal and toast before setting out on our homeward journey.

We were barely a few minutes underway when we hit a solid wall of traffic and spent the next two hours sitting at a virtual standstill with the GPS chirping annoyingly at us every couple of minutes that it had just recalculated and we were still on the fastest route! We never did discover exactly what the hold-up was. By the time that we reached the blockage, it had apparently already been cleared. At any rate, we decided that we would no longer stick with the major highways and attempt to take a more sedate and hopefully more scenic route. After a while, we saw a sign for Bognor Regis and on a whim decided to check the place out and find somewhere to have lunch.

Bognor, which like Burnham, also has a pretty stubby pier, cannot claim that it is the smallest. Although it includes Regis (of the King) in its name, there is nothing particularly regal about the place, especially now that Butlinshas one of its three remaining holiday camps situated along the seafront. Butlins is about as working-class as you can get and no member of today’s royal family is likely to be seen anywhere in its vicinity!  Compared to Eastbourne, Bognor definitely comes off looking like the poor relative! You can get a good idea of the place from the gallery presented below!

Once we left Bognor in the mid-afternoon, we headed East again hoping to miss the majority of the rush-hour around Brighton, Hove and Worthing. Even at the best of times, the main coast roads are well travelled but during morning and early evenings they make the 401 through Toronto seem leisurely. One thing that stands out though, is that much as North Americans complain about the eccentricities of the ubiquitous British roundabouts, things would be much worse without them. Of course, nothing really helps when you are bumper-to-bumper for miles on end.

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