Of course the reason Rye appears on calendars is that it is particularly photogenic. It is a little medieval town, built in that peculiarly medieval way, with cobbled streets running uphill from the fishing port to the inn and the church and the castle. But this town has hardly changed since it was built. There are a few Tudor and Georgian additions, but it is essentially caught in a time warp.
When I was young, my mother used to read me a story or a poem before I went to sleep and one still sticks in my mind now:
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!
I always used to imagine a town just like Rye outside the window. And indeed Rye thrived as much from the activities of smugglers as it did from any other trade. Here's one of the streets from the harbour:
And this is the road past the Mermaid Inn (I think it's called Mermaid Street). The15th century inn is on the right and is still one of the places to stay or eat:
But the residents have a sense of humour. Here's one house on the top of the hill:
and here's another:
and here's a commemorative plaque on a little cottage behind the church:
We then stayed the night in Dover, ready for an early departure on the ferry the next day. And I can hardly believe it, but last year, when we did this, we awoke to find it had snowed in the night; this time I thought the same thing had happened. But it turned out to be a heavy frost and I had to spend nearly half an hour before breakfast trying to scrape the frost and ice off the car.
I shan't bore you with more pics of Boulogne where we went for a delightful lunch and a bit of Christmas shopping, but I was struck by the view of Dover from the French side in the early morning sun. Given our long history of invasions and threatened invasions, it still seems incredible that England is in fact so near France and so visible.
Oh, OK, here's a shot of the Notre Dame cathedral at Boulogne which I quite like, taken from under the city walls . I thought it gave a good sense of how the buildings in the old city, public and private alike, are packed in together within the fortifications.