Golf Sabattical – England – Part 2

Continuing some travel monologue in England:

5. Stay at a small town

England is littered with small towns here and there. One of the destinations we had was a place called Dorchester, right in the heart of Dorset. Dorchester doesn’t have too much to do, not unless you are a Thomas Hardy fan. Who? Thomas Hardy? Ain’t he the guy from the movie Inception and the Warrior?

No, that’s Tom Hardy. Thomas Hardy is a dead poet and literary figure who wrote books like The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of D’ubervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd etc.

Quite a guy. Basically, he based his stories on a fictional place called Wessex, which itself is based on the landscape around Dorset, so he’s pretty popular around this region. As it is, aside from hacking golf courses, I’m a big fan of his books, which incidentally taught me more about writing and speaking English than all the 10 years of education in the Malaysian school system, both primary and secondary.

So anyways, Dorchester is actually what Thomas Hardy calls Casterbridge is his novels. There’s a walk around town for all the relevant buildings and landscapes used in his stories. It’s quite a yawnfest unless you are a Thomas Hardy fanboy like me.

6. Stay at an Inn

Or a B&B. We chose one of the oldest hotel in town because I wanted to do the walks, but if you like, stay at a cottage B&B to experience English countryside.

7. Visit a church graveyard

It might sound dark and sinister, but we went to visit the burial site of Thomas Hardy (well, I did, dragging my wife along). We weren’t supposed to enter (for clergy only), but we unlocked the gate and strolled through anyway and took photos of the Hardy graves. Not your idea of a typical holiday, ain’t it?

8. Take a stroll in the woods

English countryside experience is not complete until you take a walk in the woods. Late Autumn, early winter is especially pretty, with the trees shedding their leaves all over the trail; the summer crowd all but gone; we didn’t see a single person in our half hour walk through the woods. Back in Malaysia we would be fearful of thugs coming to rob us.

9. Visit Hardy’s Birthplace

Only if you’re a fan, that is. I completed the pilgrimage to Dorset by visiting his birthplace, his grave and his home where he would write his books. It’s easy being a fan of a dead guy who writes poems and novels a 100 years ago….there is very little competition and restrictions!

10. Visit the Naked Giant of Cerne Abbas

Cerne Abbas. This is where you have the naked fertility giant chalked into the hills by ancient tribes. The story goes that even today people would illegally go into the hills where the chalk giant’s big dongle is and have sex in order to get kids. It’s weird. But the giant is really a sight to see.

Unfortunately due to the fog, it was tough to make out, so I took the liberty of going into the village and taking a close up of one of the souvenirs:

There you go. It’s hilarious.

11. Have English Cream Teas

You won’t get anything better back home. Go to any small village and enter a tavern, or a cafe and have the cream teas, which is like a value meal with tea, scones, butter bread and additional english condiments. It tastes amazing, and I don’t even like scones.

12. Head to Bath

Bath is one of the best towns west of London. It’s steeped with Roman history and of course, the famed hot springs for Spa and Bath, from which I suppose it derived its name. It’s a bit jammed up in Bath though, and the streets are horrendously confusing. Also, parking sucks there, so be careful. We found this excellent B&B called Three Abbey Green, which is simply great value for money stay. It’s located in it’s own little section in the town with cobbled streets, surrounding a giant tree. It’s pretty cool.

Golf Sabattical – England – Part 1

Every once in a while, there comes a time where we actually go on a holiday without golf on the agenda. It’s difficult to imagine, yes, but there you go. To England, near the birthplace of golf and absolutely no golf played at all. I suppose there is no relevance at all to this blog, but since I don’t have any other blogs for my non golf buddies (actually curious family members) to go to, I’m just piggy backing this to explain to them that I actually DID NOT play any golf, even though I was presented with the opportunity to go ‘punting’, as the local Oxfordians would call it.

So what does it take for a reasonably cheap, and quick trip to England?

1. Get out of London

This seems like a curious decision, but you can’t experience England if you spend most of your time in London. It’s packed, it’s full of Asians, it looks like any other city except for the cramped underground trains and cold weather. Take a car and get out to the countryside. If you have limited time, go to the southwest of England like we did, or the southeast. North of England is a little too long a road to travel.

2. Get a good car

England loves manual cars, maybe because they don’t have traffic jams like we do. Actually they do, and it will get 1000x worse when the Olympics roll in next year. In fact, many Londoners are predicting the 2012 Olympics to be a utter and complete disaster due to London’s crappy metro and horrendously packed trains. Anyways, get a good solid car to head out into the country. We chose the solid looking Peugeot 3008 Diesel. It’s a GREAT drive this one.

3. See Castles

Castles are to England what Wats are to Thailand. You simply can’t go England without at least seeing one castle, preferable one in ruins and offering some really good pictures. Castles are embedded in England’s history; from the Arthurian Legends to Robin Hood to Rapunzel.

You can delve into the history of England with related courses from various Online Colleges.

But for us, who suck at learning, we took the practical route and headed west of London, we took the road to Dorset and came across this place called Isle of Purbeck, and there, Corfe Castle. It’s pronounced “Corf”, not “Corf-fee” which we were happily pronouncing until a local guy corrected us. Anyway, it’s a pretty amazing place. They say this was where Enid Blyton based her Kirrin Castle from the Famous Five books, from. No, Enid Blyton is not a golfer. She’s a children’s writer.

4. See the coast

England has some of the most amazing coastal lines you’re ever going to see. The southwestern part offers the Jurassic Coast, spanning hundreds of miles of wild English countryside. The South east offers the white walls of the Cliffs of Dover. You ain’t seen England till you see the coasts.

As we were in the southwest and pressed on time, we headed over to Lulworth Cove, which is one the most picturesque place in England.

We caught it on a nice day, especially in the traditionally gloomy mid-November. It’s a horse-shoe shaped cove offering some spectacular viewpoints into the English Channel. From there, it’s about a mile hike to another of England’s coastal offering, Durdle Door.

of course, being Malaysians, we opted for the short drive over to Durdle Door from Lulworth Cove. We caught it during sunset which gave some great views.

I took a hike up to the highest and farthest point of Durdle Door. From outer space, this would be where I was.

You basically look out and you see this:

To the left and right, you see this:

Actually, it’s not really advisable to climb there, as recently there was a death where some intrepid tourist, no doubt looking for the best camera shot of his life, plunged hundreds of feet into the waters below. It’s quite dangerous once the winds blow up there, so I had to be a little careful I don’t join him into the surf below.