Exploring Bournemouth

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 21, 2007

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Today we explored Bournemouth.

Our plans last night were to meet for breakfast at 8am and plan our travels. We were thinking we'd take a train, maybe a bus, to someplace nearby. But I woke up with a headache and a queasy stomach. I was disappointed that I couldn't take more advantage of the traditional English buffet provided by the hotel, but I was able to eat some.  (I'm looking forward to indulging in it more tomorrow morning).

After some welcome medical relief provided by both Tory (Pepto) and Julie (aspirin), I was feeling much better. However, we decided that we'd wander around Bournemouth rather than traveling out of the city. We decided to follow Christ Church Road, heading for a small tea house and restaurant I found in a local restaurant guide.

Along the way, we came across a variety of blooming bushes and trees. The foliage was impressive--large full trees with yellow and white buds, green bushes and hedges with red and purple flowers. I have no eye for botantical differences, but Julie was able to identify several varieties. The variety and bounty was great to see.

We also, of course, passed several historical and distinctive buildings. We passed one building, a collection of flats, with gargoyles. A tenant who passed me on her way in told me the building orignates from the 1930s; I was surprised that functional (or at least they appeared to be functional) gargoyles were a design trend in the 1930s. She also told me that the patio on the roof was perfect for sunbathing.

When it comes to older buildings, I'm always drawn to cathedrals, churchs, synagogues and the like. We passed several on our trip along Christ Church Road. It amazes me, coming from the newness of Houston, how older buildings are so typical and common in Europe. St. John's Bascombe seems to date, in part, from the early 1900s. Fairly new when compared to other buildings across Europe, but definitely historical compared to most of metro Houston. (On our way back, we passed St. John's again and took more photos. We were greeted by another friendly local, who told us he used to attend this church. After its priest left several years ago, the population had declined quite a bit. Julie told him where we were from and he told us about watching "Dallas" as he grew up.)

We came across several parks along our way. They had places for families and children and seemed well-designed for this urban community. Foliage and activity places were nicely integrated together. We followed one down to Bascombe Pier, where we walked along the shore and watched a group of teen boys plunge into the chilly waters. We also, of course, chased the fat pidgeons that are everywhere.

After a several mike hike along Christ Church Road, we found The Cozy Teapot, our destination. We'd definitely worked up an appetite and I can always stop for a pot of tea. I had Indian Chai Tea, Julie had Vanilla, and Tory tried the English Strawberry. A pot of tea along with scones and bisquits hit the spot. The service was wonderful and the atmosphere charming. I'd highly recommend it; we'll probably go back again.

On our way back to the Bournemouth town centre, we explored King's Park, a large multi-functional park. Just after we entered, we came across a cemetery. Once inside, we discovered that this cemetery had a clearly defined Jewish section (defined by a wooden rail). We explored--walking respectfully--the gravestones of the Jewish section and across the cemetary. We found most of the dates on the Jewish headstones started from the early 1900s, particularly the 1910s. The Jewish building in front of the Jewish section (perhaps a crematorium) had a date of 1922.

We found many interesting tombstones in this cemetary. Among them was a grave for Cumberland Clark, a "Poet, Historian, Dramatist" who lived from 1852-1941. I didn't recognize the name, but when we had time later in the evening to research him, my colleagues found that Clark had published several books, including lectures of Shakespeare. I'm planning to look into his history more when I can.

Many of the headstones, as may be expected, has suffered from the weather. They were collapsing or collapsed and weathered. Several were (surprising to me) made entirely of wood and still in surprisingly good shape. We also came across a recurring symbol--the letters I, H, and S intertwined into a strangle looking dollar sign. We debated whether it was a religious, political, or military symbol and speculated on its meaning. We when got back to the hotel, we researched this symbol and found it was a religious symbol with several possible meanings. It may come from the monogram of the name of Jesus, derived from the first three letters of the Greek version of his name: Iota, Eta and Sigma. It could also come from the Latin "In hoc signo", which loosely translates to "By this sign (i.e. the Cross) you shall conquer." Many others believe it means "In His service" or "In His Suffering."

As we were heading out of the cemetery, another section caught our eye. It was a section devoted to military deaths from World War I. The headstones, almost all the same shape and style, where aligned beneath a large monument commemorating the lost. Several of the headstones commemorated unknown solidiers who had perished. We noticed that the headstones included symbols of shires, but several of these symbols also had a sphinx and the words "Egypt" included. We hope to find out what this means.

On our way out of Kings Park, we came across several cricket games. I'm not expert on this sport and the pace is probably too slow for me, but it was fun to watch for a few minutes. A truly British activity.

We followed Christ Church back to our hotel for a quick refresher before heading out again. We walked to the town centre, where we planned to eat dinner. We passed many interesting shops and restaurants. Most were closed for the holiday, but we took note for later visits. We had dinner at Yates Beer Garden. The interior was packed with soccer fans, watching a match between Chelsea and Arsenal. We ordered our food and headed to the patio, although Julie was clearly interested in the match. We could hear occasional shouts; after a while, when the fans started to stream out, Julie asked a Chelsea fan about the outcome. He said it was a tie, but Chelsea missed needed points. Another sport I know little about, but I did appreciate the fans devotion to their teams because of my own devotion to the Dallas Cowboys. I could sit in a pub full of fans watching the Cowboys play.

I had the Sunday roast (roast, Yorkshire Pudding, potatoes, steamed veggies) while Julie tried a panini and Tory had lemon garlic chicken. The patio offered a nice view of a park across the street-I watched two men toss a Frisbee while a mother let her children play. After we finished, we wondered along the street to Walkabout, an Australian pub. They had a rugby match on their big screens. I found this more interesting than the soccer, but I still don't know much about it. But I could see similarities to American football. We also saw a group of women, dressed in hard hats and reflective vest, in Walkabouts. Julie and Tory found out that it was a "hen party", a bridal party. The theme was "Bob the Builder."

As part of my cultural here, I've tried several different beers. The many distinction is between bitters and lagers. I've found I like Carlings, a standard draft lager beer. It has a smooth flavor. The bitters, on the other hand, are, well, bitter. So far I've tried Worthington's Cream Flow, which wasn't for me. I don't like the bitter taste. Reminds me too much of why I don't drink beer in America-too bitter.

After relaxing at Walkabout for while, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel. In journaling about our experiences and doing research on what we didn't know, we've made a great start to exploring the culture. We're planning to visit St. Peter's Church tomorrow, where Mary Shelley is buried. Also, according to one of the locals we've met, the remains of the house where Robert Louis Stevenson used to live is in the same direction as the church. Much more to see.
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