We got back yesterday from a week's holiday split between Surrey and Sussex. Our original holiday plans went somewhat awry for various unavoidable reasons, so we had to book something at the last minute, and ended up splitting our week between staying with my parents in Surrey for a few days, and staying in a B&B in Lewes, Sussex. Despite the fact that it was a last minute thing (or perhaps because of that) it was a wonderful break, and I finally feel properly rested. I didn't check email and barely scanned Twitter, RSS feeds and so on. I really enjoyed my online fast as I remembered how much fun the real world can be.
Having grown up in Surrey, I'm often quite scathing about it, but it actually has some very nice parts when you view it through adult, tourist eyes rather than those of a stroppy teenager. We had a lovely walk in the countryside, went to Brighton for the day and visited National Trust properties, courtesy of one of the best wedding presents ever from my much-loved and much-missed godmother: a lifetime membership to the National Trust.
Then, in the second leg of the holiday, we went down to Lewes in Sussex. It's a lovely town with some great buildings, a castle, and lots of independent shops. It also has a reputation for feisty, radical, rebellious residents, which is appropriate as Lewes was the birthplace of one of the fathers of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine. Lewes people tend to stand up for what they believe in, and are fiercely independent. For example, when the brewery Greene King took over the Lewes Arms and decided to stop serving the locally-brewed Harveys ales, the townspeople boycotted the pub. This lead to such a drop in sales (and some terrible publicity) that Greene King were forced to reverse their decision. The pub (in which we spent some very happy hours) is now run by Fullers, and is a lovely, quiet place (mobile phones are banned and there is no recorded music or fruit machines) — serving Harveys, of course.
I think that Lewes people are rather wonderful. Within an hour of arriving in the town, we were given a little guided tour by a resident, who started chatting to us in the Tourist Information shop. She said she was walking our way anyway, and pointed out the sights to us along with some local history. Everyone we met was friendly and justly proud of their lovely town. Three days in Lewes wasn't really enough, so we'll be back there, I'm sure. In the meantime, we really enjoyed the fresh air, the friendly people, and eavesdropping on intelligent, interesting conversations in the pub. Despite all that, it's nice to be home and have the cats back. They went into a cattery for the first time, and while they were fine, they are certainly enjoying being back home. I've never seen two such contented cats as Bella and Bianca last night, as they snuggled up with us on the bed for the night. I've also got another week of leave, so I'm looking forward to a bit more unwinding in the hope of being substantially more refreshed when I return to work. I haven't got around to downloading my photos off the camera yet, but some pictures of Sussex and Surrey will follow at some point.