I stayed with a friend who lives about 40 minutes (on the train) east of London
for my first few days. With a day when no archives are open, my friend and I decided to head down to the coast to a town called Rye since the weather was surprisingly nice (though not hot) for England. Rye is part of 1066 Country -- in other words, where the Normans invaded. The town is old and quaint (though overrun with tourists in the summer). Every building seems to have a name, and one was even called the house with two front doors (because yes, it had two front doors). Walking through the town, though, I was convinced Miss Marple was going to wander out of one of them on her way to solve a murder.
It was that quaint. The church turned 900 in 2003, and there quite a lot of really old buildings, such as the Mermaid Inn from about 1420. Then we went a couple miles outside of town to a sandy beach (Camber Beach) and walked along the water for a while. What a workout! The tide comes up really far and then goes out really far, so every step we took in the wet sand sunk up to our ankles. We walked all the way to where a small river cut inland from the Channel, and on the other side of the river were WWII pillboxes from which the British guarded the coast from a German invasion. Unfortunately, the bridge to cross the river was quite a few miles upstream, so we couldn't get there.
When we left the beach, we asked if there was any way to get to those pillboxes or any others we could see.
Looking back on Camber Beach from the English Channel
We had to go all the way to the other side of Rye, to the Harbour, to see some. Only, once we drove 6 miles there, parked, and walked to the coast, we realized that we were at the same exact ones we saw from the other side of the river. and with the tide even lower, we could have easily just walked around the mouth of the river to get there since there is a huge sandbar along that part of the coast. go figure. But it was really cool to see that part of history. Afterwards, we went to another 1066 town -- Hastings. It was late in the day so we didn't venture up to see what is left of the Hastings castle, but we got a decent view of it from below. But we did have some fish and chips since they catch all the fish there. We ate at a place my friend remembered from the last time he was there, which was quite a few years earlier. The place is along the road that lines the coast, is blue and has a dolphin or something like that on it. The most important thing, though, is that there is always a long line for the take-away, and quite a few people inside.