Happy Birthday to me! Yup, I turned 32 at precisely 1:06 this afternoon. I think it rather fitting that I celebrate my birthday by stepping onto British soil for the first time in my life – something I have looked forward to for at least a couple of decades…ever since I read the epic Arthurian tale The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and instantly fell in love with all things Medieval.
We were up at 6:30 a.m. and enjoyed the nice breakfast buffet (7 Euro each, but not a bad deal, with croissants, ham, cheese, yogurt, juice, and coffee). We packed up and checked out at 7:45 a.m., wading through a huge tour group of Americans and Brits who were waiting to board their bus. It was pouring rain again, but we made good time to
We finally approached the imposing line of gates but had to wait forever in what is supposed to be the efficient self-check-in line (for passengers with pre-purchased tickets) because someone in front of us was having trouble with the machine. When we finally got our turn, it was a breeze – just put in your credit card to identify your reservation, confirm your info, grab the paper hanger to put on your rearview mirror, and off you go! We were scheduled for the 13:50 train but we were early and were able to get on the 13:20 train for no extra charge. We followed the signs, expecting to see what they call the “terminal building” where we could stop and use the restroom, but instead found ourselves winding through a maze of lanes that ended at the passport control booth. Apparently there is now officially a little chunk of English land in
We found ourselves heading through another maze of lanes, and before we knew it we were in the line to get onto the train. So much for our potty break! We drove down a long ramp towards the train (photo, right), which looked a bit like a long silver double-decker bus, except with smaller windows, being pulled by a high-speed train locomotive. The platform is exactly even with the bottom level of the train, so you literally drive right on board. We didn’t see how you drive onto the upper level, as they weren’t loading cars on top; apparently the EuroTunnel has not been as popular as anticipated (probably because it’s so darn expensive!) and the trains are rarely, if ever, full. We drove forward through several compartments before coming to a stop. Each compartment holds three or four cars front to back. You are instructed to put on your parking brake, and standing between cars while the train is underway is forbidden, in the unlikely event that a car rolls or the train comes to a screeching halt. A woman came through and shut a set of metal doors that roll down between the carriages. I wanted to get some stuff out of the trunk for our lunch but we started moving before I had the chance, so we just sat back to enjoy the ride.
The 30-minute trip went by in a flash and, aside from being much bumpier than I expected, was quite uneventful. You can’t see a thing out the windows and you never even get a glimpse of the Channel because the stations on either end are quite a ways inland. (We met some Americans in
John had volunteered to be the first guinea pig to drive on the wrong side of the road. (Honestly he just didn’t want to navigate, because he gets carsick when he has to read maps.) As we set out onto the motorway we passed a little sign that reminded us to drive on the left, fahren links in German. It was still quite early in the afternoon so we decided to take the scenic route along the southern coast of
We decided to stop at William the Conqueror’s castle at
We found “
We made our way back to the car park and went out to sit on the pebbly beach for a little while. It was so windy that we could feel the sea spray on our faces even from fifty feet away. Around 3:45, having used less than two hours of our parking allotment, we got back in the car and set the navi for Lancing, a small college town near
Take it from us: if you are ever in southeastern England, you can give Hastings a pass.
It was about an hour’s drive through more rolling green countryside, skirting
We went down to dinner at about 7:45 and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hotel's dining room and its menu. It was my birthday, after all, so we decided to celebrate. For starters, John had Scottish smoked salmon and I had a crab salad with crème frâiche, cucumber, and walnut dressing. Then we both had langoustine ravioli with steamed spinach and a pepper sauce. For dessert, John had chocolate bread pudding with molten banana filling and malt ice cream and I had a trio of crème brulées (ginger, orange, and pistachio). Everything was uniformly tasty. After dinner we settled our hotel bill, since we would be leaving early in the morning, then headed out the door intending to take a short walk. A guy who had been sitting at the bar saw us leaving and asked if we needed anything. We told him we thought we would walk to the nearby Lancing College chapel but he said the path was closed at night. He pointed out a mown trail that we could take behind the hotel to get a nice view of the chapel. The path took us past the hotel’s helicopter landing pad (there was even a helicopter parked there, probably some rich car aficionado attending tomorrow’s show) and, at the top of a grassy hill, the promised view of the elegant Gothic chapel, all lit up against the night sky, was quite stunning.
We have a big day tomorrow: the much-anticipated Race Day at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, one of the most famous car shows in the world.