Beach huts and more beach huts…..oh, and a pier.

Just a short leg this morning, in glorious sunshine before seeking out the A34 and a return home. Beach huts is the theme for the day. Now these are everywhere lining the beach in their idiosyncratic way. However classy or run-down a coastal settlement is there will always be a row, or two or three, of beach huts which reflect the character of the area. Look at these and see what I mean. In all cases the pebbly beach is long and wide and straight. The beach huts top the slight landward rise and give way to a promenade or cycle path which then drops away to the residential areas and the avenues and cull-de-sacs that stretch inland

Moving along the coast from Brighton, Hove has clusters of huts along the long seafront.

Before the working port of Shoreham Harbour (no beach huts here, only timber yards and docks) there is Portslade-by-Sea where the beach’s huts have all seen better days, as has the beach.

South Lancing starts to up the quality; from a distance anyway.

Lovely, elegant retro/Victorian party town of Worthing adds a touch of real class to these proceedings; well the pier does anyway.

The East Worthing to Goring-on-Sea guard is particularly impressive as the rising sun hits the angles and the beach hut equivelent of Colonel Mannering inspects his lines from his even more grand Victorian Seafront Shelfer.

I always imagined Littlehampton to be rather grander than it is. These huts line the approach to the town. Hmmmmm.

A final cup of tea on Littlehampton beach before the traffic-manic rush back to the concrete and clay of the city. Or something more seasidey if you fancy. Are these beach huts? Well they do line the beach and they are huts.

Sea you all soon.

Four piers for the price of three

A day that started and ended with two magnificent piers and an ultra special one with golden orbs in the middle. Do not go there. I said orbs and not balls. Oh…. and see if you can spot me- a kind of Where’s Wally but me and without a striped T-shirt. So I suppose nothing like it really.

Dawn was glorious. So up I bounced and down I went to the front. The sun shone so innocently on Hastings pier, lighting up its colours in fresh-faced shades of happy, summer colours.

My first port of call was Bexhill-on-Sea. A rather grand, Victorian, rather pompous sort of place which I quite liked.

From here a huge crescent of wide, pebbly bay stretches westward, lined by the beach gardens of well-to-do detached housing. Half way along is Pevency from where this expanse of beach and sea can best be seen stretching away in either direction. The only people to be seen are dog walkers with their dogs and their tight little bags of poo dangling from limp hands; the humans that is, not the dogs.

The first sight of the front at elegant, white, grand Eastbourne really does take the breath way. A long terrace of hotels and guest houses overlooks the road, the promenade and the wide contours of multi-browned pebbles, dissected by lines of groynes to keep them all in their rightful place. Behind this, the glory of Eastbourne pier stands out to sea, proud and strong, its golden domes blazing the sun’s reflection back into the town. Gold and white do go rather well together.

A short drive over the cliffs brings me firstly down to the calm that is Seaford.

Then, just to remind us that some people have to earn a living, rather than just holiday, it is another drive along the cliffs before dropping down into the working port of Newhaven.

Then back over the cliffs, through Peacehaven (for some reason I really like that name) to arrive in Brighton. Now, I could show you this image of the beach of Brighton which I am sure you are familiar with and you might say ‘a magnificent pier to end the day with’.

But I wanted to share with you some different images of the beach at Brighton and of a very different, but, I think, equally magnificent pier.

West Pier opened in 1866, closed in 1975 when it fell into disrepair which was then doubly compounded by two fires in 2003. Only a skeleton of rusting iron remains as the town’s most photographed feature. This contrasts with the nearby, state of the art viewing platform sponsored by BA which opened in 2016.

 

 

On my way to the battle of Hastings under blue skies

Well, my loyal followers. The sun decided to shine for a few days so I decided to come away for a few days and complete another leg of my coastal tour. So I head for Deal, in Kent. The plan is to come down around Dungeness and spend a night in Hastings which is why I’m sat at the window of a small Italian Italian in the old town.

I am gonna let the images tell their story of each place I visited. Some I really enjoyed, some I could easily never visit again. I liked Deal. It was small and cosey and had small English seaside town atmosphere.

Dover; hmmmmm. I followed some fisherman and found a side of town that I never expected to see. The western side of the highlight is protected by a huge pier and from that pier, which you access through the old cruise liner buildings, are so many groups of eastern European men, dozing in the sun, sleeping stretched out or teasing angry nibbling fish with some very expensive looking kit. Could be anywhere in the world on any pier; but hey, it’s Dover.

Folkestone has not got a lot to offer except the remains of the old train ferry track and viaduct which they are in the process of renovating.

Dungeness was intriguing – a mixture of 21st century wind farms and nuclear power stations shaken up with 60’s holiday bungalows (of do they live there permanently?), a few snassy Grand Design buildings, rusty abandoned tracks leading down to derelict fishing enterprises mixed with fibre glass silhouettes of catamarans in the far distance on the beach.

There then follows a number of villages which huddle along the road protected from the storms by the tall sea wall.. The only bright spot on this section is Rye Harbour with its clapper-boarded or rendered facades to protect the structures from the storms.

And finally Hastings with the Pier of the Year 2017. Why???? Maybe it’s Hastings’ turn.

 

 

 

Capri in retrospect

So does the sun always shine on Capri? Well I don’t know the answer to that but it certainly did on the 6 days I was there; and, boy, was it glorious. It really is a lovely place to visit on a short trip. Yes, it is expensive as everything has to come by sea, and, yes, during the day the ferries discharge day trippers galore to clog up the narrow streets and lanes in the two main centres of Capri town and Anacapri. Other than these two factors it is a great place to explore.

Capri town has a classy feel about it but as long as you keep to window-shopping and people-watching over your one coffee it is a busy but intriguing experience. It does help that the last ferry off the island is at 6pm so in the evenings everything calms down, the shops shut and some gentle nightlife can take over in bars and restaurants.

Anacapri is smaller and much more Italian with fewer columns of visitors. The one reason to visit the town is to get the chair lift up to the top of the highest peak. It is a peaceful 10 minute swing each way and is well worth the effort as the whole island and nearby mainland spreads out in below you in a landscape of rock and canopies, scattered white villas around hotels, and tracks of vessels sniffing around in the coastal waters.

I stayed even further west at a small B&B, il Paradiso di Capri, run by Guiliano and his family. The breakfast terrace and my balcony overlooked the sea and Ischia to the west, hence the sunsets.

Nothing was to much trouble for Guiliano. He made reservations for dinner, dashed up and down the hillside to collect and deposit visitors at the port, always had a smile and a happy greeting. A lovely man.

We ate at places he recommended. Restaurants on the island run this truly great service. Each one will collect their punters from their accommodation and take then back when they have eaten. Now that is cool. We took to Le Arcate in Anacapri and ate there three times. No view, no sunsets but the friendliest of welcomes, amazing service and great food. Papa opened it 36 years ago when he arrived from Naples with his family. Nico, the head waiter, looked after us- a lovely man with a dry sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye and always up to mischief whilst looking after his clients so well. On the last night he had our table waiting and set, with our favourite bottle of Chianti standing guard. The homemade lemoncello was to die for.

So thank you Capri. If any of you want to get away from it all for a while, I thoroughly recommend it.

 

Round and round the island in a tiny boat

So here we go, around the small island of Capri. This is Nico. He has a small, traditional boat painted blue. He meets his guests in the harbour, gives us a steadying hand to board,  settles us down and casts off. Leaving Capri behind us we set out into the open sea.

We sail, rather motor, anticlockwise around the island. It is a crowded procession of boats, all showing off their beautifully painted and varnished hulls and masts with bright chrome gleaming proudly in the sun. Most carry a handful of passengers but occasionally one of the harbour big boys tries to bully everyone else out the way with a hundred or so passengers pointing their iphones at the craft below.

Under blue skies and on turquoise waters, with gentle breezes cooling us down, we gasp in wonder at the ruins of castles and Roman villas perched high up at the tops of sheer cliffs. Down at sea level rocky ledges & platforms, laughingly called beaches, provide safe bathing areas for locals & tourists or acess to a private villa or an upmarket restaurant. In places ingenious designers have created formal bathing areas with bathing hits and rows of sunbeds.

The flotilla of boats hug the coastline sniffing out caves & grottos. Once one is found the skippers very politely allow each other in turn to enter the shady darkness of these arched cathedrals shaped by the sea. There is no queue barging here.

Around strong headlands arched villas or cloistered hotels appear. Natural rock formations address given human names like ‘the heart’.

Very high end, luxury craft, are moored off the coast, yatchts and sail, acting as bathing and sunning platforms for rich families and gorgeous gals & guys. A nice life if you can get it.

 

 

Amongst the rich and famous

The town of Capri is very different to Anacapri. The tourists arrive at the harbour and get a bus or the vernacular railway up the hill short distance to the small central piazza beside the church.

In this space four cafes have packed their tables and umbrellas leaving three narrow pathways to the archways and the town’s riches. Elegant & suave locals drink their coffee surveying the lines of  tourists come to disturb their peace.

They view the lines of chattering pale-skinned Chinese and the drawling large American from their wicker chairs, faintly amused by the endless stream of overheated, sunhatted visitors in columns of minipeded legs lead by the raised furled umbrella – a beacon to all tourists seeking that one image or piece of tat to impress their pals back home.

Taking one of the narrow alleys the town reveals itself.

Elegant hotels welcome high end visitors to relax in cool gardens after visiting those really upmarket designer stores that the rest of us pass by laughing in envy. Well, I love the style of the mature Italian gentleman but is this really my look: the total outfit costs £5,00 euros from the Dolce & Gabbana shop.

Tourist watering holes and rich oases need servicing. Special porters’ carts, delivery vehicles and even dustbin trucks squeeze through Capri’s arteries.

Evidence of the playground of many Caesars is dotted around the edges of the cliffs. These are the gardens of Caesar Augustus.

Most visitors head for Capri for the day. They crawl around the town, grab a piece of cold pizza and board a bus and head out to Anacapri. The little mini-mope buses scurry up & down the hill between Capri & Anacapri, the orange local buses and the smart blue private company ones, competing with each other to deliver their human cargo as quickly as possible. Out they tumble, “Ooooh, arhhh”; pizza or mozzarella & tomatoes for a tenner and back to the ferry; “ We’ve done Capri” shout American & Chinese voices “and we bought the bag”.

The rest of us can enjoy the peace of shady evenings in warm stoned streets once they have returned to the mainland.

Up in the hills around Anacapri

So how does this large rock called Capri work? The island lies from east to west. It consists of hard, rocky cliffs and hillsides covered in scrubby pines and cyprus trees. It doesn’t take long to drive from one end of the island to the other. There are two main settlements. There is the town of Capri which spirals around the cliffs above the harbour and there is the town of Anacapri which is situated high up amongst the crags & boulders of the dry hills. Each is very different to the other. My B&B is great over on the west coast near Faro, which means lighthouse and, yes, there is a lighthouse down at the bottom of a whole load of steps.

Capri and Anacapri and Faro are linked by narrow, and I mean narrow, roads that run between high, hard walls. These are wide enough to fit in three scooters side by side. So this is the ultimate game of chicken and the home of the the small car. Small buses, carrying locals & tourists alike, run around like sardine cans on wheels. 8 people can sit and up to 24 can stand as they jerk their way around and down the helter-skelter of alleys and aisles, competing with scooters and those little pop-pop three wheeled, wobbly trucks.

Occasionally big brother taxis push their way to the front. These are rather grand. They are cut off Nissan & Fiats. Instead of a roof they have a canvas canopy, beneath which punters laze and view passers-by.

Anacapri has all the elements of a small Italian town. Old streets undulate around the church.

Cafes and restaurants create their piece of umbrellared shade and mix it with smart clothes shops selling linen and kashmere. Above a small square a promenade provides a wonderful view of the harbour and Capri town down below.

It has a chair lift that takes punters up to the highest peak. Small streets provide homes for these classy tourist outlets whilst locals live, work and play and get on with their everyday lives.

As night falls the tourists ebb away leaving a dusky, eerie peace within shuttered streets.