Monday, October 20, 2008

Notting Hill and Sussex

Sussex was AMAZING! But first, Notting Hill.

Yesterday morning, I met my classmate, Alex, at the Portabello Road market in Notting Hill. She lives in the Notting Hill area, which is really a chic neighborhood (aren't they all, though, in London?) She said she goes to the Portabello Rd market every Saturday. I went there when Jody and I came to London, and both times, I've been slightly disappointed with how quickly you get to the end. I mean, it's a mile-long market, so it's nothing to sneeze at, but it just seems to go really quickly.

I noticed one stall with an inordinately large number of women scrambling to grab fabrics. The owner of the stall called out periodically, "Everything on this table, 1 pound!" So I had a look. It was mostly ugly print shirts, but I did find two pretty, thin cotton skirts. At only a pound each, I couldn't resist! At home, I would normally say, "Don't buy skirts! It's almost winter!" But everyone wears skirst and dresses all the time here. You just pair them with some colorful tights, boots, and a sweater. Tres chic!

Before going to the market, I had that nursery rhyme stuck in my head: "To market, to market, to buy a fat pig." So I was highly amused when we decided to have roast pig sandwiches for lunch, and this welcomed us in front of the stall:

That is (was) a whole pig, on a spit. Mmm, mmm good.

Just before 3pm, I met up with Holly and we headed out for her home.

We took the train from Victoria station to East Grinstead, in the county of Sussex (technically, West Sussex). It's about an hour south of London. Doesn't East Grinstead sound like a name out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? A sign in front of the station there said L. Ron Hubbard lived there at one point. Apparently, East Grinstead is the UK headquarters of the Church of Scientology. It's also located at the convergence of ley lines (whatever that means), so all sorts of "non-traditional" religions are based in or near there.

Holly's mom picked us up from the station. They live about 15 miles away, in a town called Hartfield. The whole area was gorgeous countryside, especially with the leaves changing color. As we pulled up their driveway, driving through their front field, I saw a deer near a stream. I was all proud of myself for spotting it, until Holly's mom said, "There are the deer in the upper field." When I looked up at the upper field, there were at least twenty of them, including a stag or two.

Her house was absolutely gorgeous and completely charming. It's a real farmhouse, and her mom has it decorated with lots of Cath Kidston. It's like a house straight out of Country Living magazine. Shabby chic reigns supreme. The family has owned it for 30 years, and Holly's dad has done quite a bit of restructuring over the years. The house was heated only by wood stoves, so the main rooms downstairs were broiling hot, and the upper rooms were freezing. Nothing warm blankets couldn't solve, though! I had a guestroom to myself and it was adorable! Right up my alley. I was too chicken to take pictures of the house, but I snapped a couple of my room, and the bathroom. (Sorry they're so dark. I suppose I could have turned on a light.)

The bathroom was massive. This picture doesn't do it justice. Also, the floor was heated. Whoever invented heated floors deserves a Nobel Prize.

Holly's mom has a huge garden, kind of wild on one side of the house, then more ordered in planters on the back side of the house. Their property contains several buildings: the main house, three smaller houses which are rented out, a barn that will eventually be converted to a living space, and a large garage. Behind their back field, there is a fishing pond, but there's no real road up to the pond, so people drive up Holly's driveway, then drive across their back field. Pretty funny! They used to have animals like sheep, but now they just have two house cats, a brother and sister that sort of reminded me of Leon and Mathilda. Only sort of, though, because these cats actually liked to be pet.

Holly's family were all really nice and friendly. Her sister lives in one of the other houses on the property, so we went over there after dinner to hang out and chat. We were gonna head out to the pub, but her sister and I were both pretty tired, so we called it an early night. This morning at breakfast, Holly asked if I'd heard of "Pooh-bear." It turns out, A.A. Milne and Christopher Robin lived in Hartfield, a 15-min walk from Holly's house! We went for a 20-min walk through beautiful scenery to "Pooh Bridge," where the famous Pooh-sticks game was played.

As you might be able to read on the sign, you're not supposed to rip sticks from the trees. You're supposed to bring Pooh-sticks with you, or find twigs on the ground. We were only able to find one twig, so Holly broke it in half and we dropped them upstream. Mine won. There were no Eeyore sightings, unfortunately.

In the English countryside, houses are no longer assigned numbers. They all get names, and that becomes part of your address. You can change the name of your house/property if you want. So instead of living at Number 7, Country Lane, you could live at Briarwood Farm, Country Lane. Makes it hard to find a house you've never been to before, but isn't it charming?

Along the road to the bridge, there were many lovely estates. One was called Cotchford Farm, which I thought was kind of a funny name. Probably because it sounds like "crotch." According to Wikipedia, Cotchford Farm is where A.A. Milne lived. Wikipedia also tells me it was owned at some point by the founder of the Rolling Stones, who was later found dead in the pool. Anyway, all of the significant places listed in the Winnie-the-Pooh books are real places where the real Christopher Robin Milne played. You can visit them all; Roo's sandy pit, Piglets home, the 100-Acre Wood. According to the Pooh Country website, Christopher Robin would go playing, accompanied by his nanny. His nanny would relate his adventures to his mother, who told them to his father, who wrote them all down.

So yeah, I had fun. No, I didn't meet any eligible bachelors who would follow me back to London. Sorry to disappoint all you romantics out there. We came back this afternoon via London Bridge train station. Just as we turned onto our street to get back home, I discovered a 5 pound note lying on the ground! What a great weekend! Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and rainbows, as I suspect that I'm coming down with something. My glands and head feel swollen today, and now I'm feeling rather warm. All of my classmates have been sick, and my number is finally up. I've been drinking lots of cranberry juice! (and vodka) Isn't that supposed to fortify the immune system? Oh well. I was determined to make it through the fall without getting sick, but as I've learned in epidemiology, when prevalence and attack rates are this high, there's no escaping disease. I guess I'll just give in and hope that it passes quickly and uneventfully.


  1. You don't get much more romantic than Pooh Country. Playing Poohsticks and singing "Tiddlypom-pom". *sigh*

  2. I want to go see Pooh Corner! So jealous...

  3. I'm so jealous my head exploded.