Saturday, June 16, 2012


For so very long, I'd wanted to visit the little town of Lyme Regis on the coast of England in West Dorset because of its association with Jane Austen and her novel Persuasion, in which Louisa falls when jumping off the steps of the Cobb and suffers a serious injury, because of the setting of the movie "The French Lieutenant's Woman", and the book of the same title, and more recently because I read a novel about Mary Anning, the young fossil hunter. For the full story of why I wanted to go to Lyme Regis, see my earlier post on the town.

The entire visit to the little town had an air of unreality about it, as I could not quite believe I was finally there. The emotions that I thought would emerge when I arrived in the place I had so wanted to visit didn't come, and I felt a detachment, as though I was watching a film of someone else in Lyme Regis. I said nothing to Cathy, my fellow traveler, about my feelings, because she might have taken them to be disappointment, but that was not the case at all. What happened was that the emotions were too great, so a kind of numbness took over, which is the reason why I've taken so long to actually write about the place. As I write these words, I sound a little crazy, even to myself.

We drove through the town and parked as close to the beach as we could, which was pretty close considering our visit was during the tourist season. We walked straight to the beach, and I had my first view of the Cobb, which featured so prominently in two of the books and the movie.

Cathy and I walked out on the Cobb, and she insisted that I do the Meryl Streep imitation.  Since I couldn't quite believe I was actually walking and standing on the Cobb, the joking around with the scarf and me as Meryl Streep early in the visit was probably a good thing.

After the walk on the Cobb, Cathy and I headed for the beach.  Although smaller fossils (curies, as the local people call them), can still be found at Lyme Regis, during the tourist season the beach is pretty much swept clean.   As we walked along, Cathy spotted the small fossil pictured at the left and gave it to me as a memento of our trip.  I was quite surprised by the find and even more moved by Cathy's generous gift.

We walked back to town and looked for a restaurant to eat lunch, but all were either too crowded or unsatisfactory for one reason or another. We headed back to the beach, walked up and down, and settled on By The Bay, where we intended to have lunch at one of the outdoor tables, protected by umbrellas, with a full view of the beach. However, as we walked toward the restaurant, a light rain began to fall, and by the time we reached the restaurant, the rain came down harder, so we took a table inside. Of course, we had to order fish and chips, and Cathy recommended ginger beer, as she said, "Fentimans, a good old Newcastle firm, the logo is the owner's dog, which is one of the reasons I like it."  What could I do?  I ordered Fentimans Ginger Beer, along with a glass of wine.

I'll let Cathy speak again, "We had a good time :) The restaurant served damn good fish and chips."  Indeed!  We had a lovely lunch, with delicious fish and chips and tasty ginger beer. 

After lunch, we walked along the row of colorful beachfront changing cabins, where folks had their chairs, iceboxes, and food and drink - their supplies for a day on the beach.  I imagine the ladies of the late 18th and early 19th century changing into their bathing costumes with hardly an inch of skin exposed beyond the face and hands and being rolled out to sea in bathing machines.

As we headed back to town past the shops and made our way to the car, I particularly noted the beautiful lampposts with shell motifs.  The photo to the left with the birdie perched on one of the beauties is very likely not mine, but where it comes from, I can't say.

My sense of inhabiting a dream had lifted a little toward the end of the visit, but the entire time in the town has an air of unreality about it until this day.  Did I really visit Lyme Regis, or are my memories  a figment of my imagination?  The pictures prove I was there, but still... 

Image at the head of the post and of the Cobb from Wikipedia.

Note: The picture of the streetlamps is also from Wikipedia.