Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 9: Hastings

We had a leisurely sleep in until 8am then meandered downstairs where we failed to impress the two large dogs (black and white) at reception. White barked and grumbled. Black glared at us. 

Hastings Old Town when sensible people are still in bed

We departed at 10am for the West Cliff Railway and arrived early after investigating antique and gift shops. The rail was quick but very effective, conveying us to the top. We gazed down upon Hastings then walked to Hastings Castle. We attempted to pay but the man there explained that three school groups were due to arrive at any moment so this somehow meant we got in free. 

Before reaching this point, I had noted obvious earthworks - a large hill. On the other side of the hill, this made more sense. The castle is in ruins but is still interesting. Built in 1067, its walls are made of very large stones and dodgy mortar. The chapel ruins are the most substantial part of the site, which is a shame.

A view any Norman would love

Turning from the view of the ruined pier, we walked to the west entrance. It had obvious signs of a portcullis and gate and faced an eroded valley - drawbridge material! Speaking of erosion, we saw a sign showing where the shoreline was in 1066 and in the 1800s - much further out. The castle lost its south tower and possibly the keep due to this. Nowadays, they fight to keep Hastings where it is. 

The West Gate - and its total lack of welcome mat

We read another sign which explained that the mound we noticed before arriving was a motte which typically seated a castle at the top (the hill could be seen from this side too). A Norman design, possibly the first in Britain. I felt proud of myself for observing the earthworks. Thank you for my education, Time Team!

A few minutes before we left, the promised tour groups turned up which was lucky or they’d have clogged up our photos.

After spotting the modern toilet cubicles in the ruins and making jokes about medieval plumbing, we left, passing yet more student groups on the way out (they were speaking French).

Ignoring the sign for Smuggler’s Adventure (we would soon find out we should have stayed up there to access those caves - I told Cazy this!) we returned via the cliff railway to George Street.

We passed the same shops from yesterday then went beyond to a new street where we found a very large antique shop that was comprised of several mini-levels. Nothing caught my eye but Cazy bought a policeman figurine.

We roamed on, encountering the miniature railway, net huts (unique to Hastings - small black wobbly-looking wooden huts that stand up to three levels - these became popular because of beach erosion and restricted space in Victorian times) and the East Cliff Railway.

This is one of the steepest railways in the world. We rode it to the top and walked briefly in the five mile park before returning to beach level.

East Cliff Railway to Heaven

Cazy and I then boarded the miniature railway which very conveniently took us right near the West Cliff Railway. We enjoyed ice creams at the seaside despite the chilly weather and ever-present French students (one boy ordered what looked like a pile of cream on his plate - his friends were both envious and amused as he tried to eat it).

Here we parted. Cazy took the miniature train back and I dove across the street to browse the shops. Some were closed and some threatened closure on Friday due to a funeral. I found a sign that explained that all were welcome to dress up in a costume from any of the activities/groups the deceased was a part of. The text was accompanied by a photo of a man in a pirate costume. He must have been a local character.

I bought some chips and dawdled to the beach - pebbly, stoney and uncomfortable underfoot! I walked to the ruined pier and along the way pocketed some flint. I met up with Cazy and we both touched water on the beach before slinking back to the hotel.

That's not a beach...

As we climbed the steps inside, Cazy said softly in surprise, “Oh!”

I saw the cat lying on the landing, almost blending into the off-beige carpet. It was as stripy as the carpet too! Very friendly cat, loves tummy rubs and back scratches. He/she rolled about the carpet, “smiling” in delight.

Cazy made me leave. The cat zipped back down to reception.

I relaxed while my brother explored some more. He returned shaken because a hoodlum accused him of taking photos of his big black car.

Tourists prefer buildings, mais oui!

Time for bed.

Tomorrow - Bristol!

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