Our Hiking Adventure Along the South Downs Way

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July 13th, 2010: Foggy Morning or Sheep Dip Day
We hadn’t fully appreciated the clear views of Isle of Wight thirty miles away as well as everything between until this morning when our view from all sides was deep fog after about 30 feet.  It didn’t last long and soon we had clear views in the distance and fields of sheep dung beneath.  We are catching more and more glimpses of the sea and yesterday made out sailboats gliding along.  Today we watched hang gliders while we took a break on our way to Alfriston.

The fog cleared, and we could see the white trail of the South Downs Way leading off into the distance.

July 14th, 2010  Royal Pavilion Day
We have a short walk today to Exceat, so at the suggestion of our earlier host and hostess, we hop a bus and visit Brighton and the Royal Pavilion, which they aptly described as “over the top”.  It was King George IV’s party house before he was crowned king.  He was apparently a GREAT lover of wine, women and song.  He bought a farm house in the seaside city of Brighton and over the years converted it into a playhouse of almost comic grandeur. At the time, early 1800's, he was the prince regent, which meant that he was the acting king for his father, King George III, who along with losing the colonies, was considered mentally incapable of ruling.

Royal Pavilion
Glenn by the entrance of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

I broke out laughing when we walked into the banquet hall with its bejeweled dragon clutching a one ton, 30 foot chandelier in its claws.  The table was set with full place settings for 24, with the host’s chair in the middle, rather than at the end, so he could better attend to his guest’s pleasures while enhancing his own.  Nearly everything was either brought from the Orient or imitated it.  The soft facial expressions on the floor to ceiling Oriental murals really touched me.  Often Oriental faces depicted in art seem removed and austere, but these were so human and accessible.   It gave me a sense of the King’s own humanity in choosing them.  We had a ball going through all the rooms. The huge state-of-the-art (at the time) kitchen was of particular pride to the prince regent. He would often give his guests tours of the room where the feast of up to 100 entrees was prepared.  There is a story that once the King laid a table cloth on the kitchen floor and ate with his servants. 

When he died of general bad health with no heirs, his brother, William reigned for 7 years until he, too, died, also leaving no heirs.  The crown then passed to their niece, Victoria.  She had nine children with her husband, Prince Albert, and disapproved of the opulence of the Royal Pavilion, so she sold it to the town of Brighton (after stripping it of 147 cargo wagons of furniture; she must not have totally hated opulence!).  Many of the current furnishing are the originals on loan from the current queen. I am interested in English history for the first time.

Royal Pavilion
Michele in front of the Royal Pavilion.

The town of Brighton has done an amazing restoration after a fire and again after a minaret fell on the roof that had taken 17 years to restore. As an editorial comment on this level of excessive wealth, there is currently a temporary installment of black ceramic butterflies, of many sizes, all over some of the rooms–on the banquet table, in the drapes and on King George’s bed.  The sign introducing the installation comments on the ephemeral nature of all material things and the contrast between the difficult economic conditions felt by most of England at the time this was being built and furnished and the conspicuous excess of this royal pavilion. Much to my delight on our return trip to Exceat, we  get off at a small town where I had spotted a used clothing store and scored!!

On the way back to Exceat we have a long conversation with a fellow bus rider about the US and England’s health care systems and education.  Again, the English are so knowledgeable about us! 

We finish the day with a one day premature celebration of the end of our walk at a lovely restaurant complete with wine, appetizers, and dessert.  Before dinner we walk down to the sea and examine the white chalk cliffs that give this whole area its reputation.  Tomorrow, we will walk along the tops of them to our destination of Eastbourne. 

Exceat cliffs
Glenn at the base of the cliffs at Exceat in the Seven Sisters Park.

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Last Updated July 19, 2011
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