JACKIE: Again, David is enjoying the winter weather as a lone traveler, so together we enjoy his tale of The Mermaid, Abridged!
DAVID: “Abridged” because I’d need about 5 columns to do justice to this marvelous mermaid; and that’s for just the pictures. So here goes: Have you ever dreamed of living somewhere back in Time, in another place filled with mystery and intrigue, daring romance and dark deeds? If you are like me, an Anglophile, you would be transported to some fog-bound village where smugglers crept about in the gloom hiding their booty in ancient places, quaffing ale from pewter mugs and gnawing at joints of beef. Well, then, welcome to The Mermaid Inn in old Rye, Sussex, England. Born in 1156 as the principal Inn of the town and still reigning as the jewel in the crown. But now, no smugglers, no mysterious goings-on, just a great place to spend a night or two in superb comfort while being surrounded by sounds of the drums of history and the ghosts of one-time residents. And the memory of visitors like Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth, and the Queen Mother, Prince Edward, Warren Beatty, Pierce Brosnan, Andy Garcia, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. Even the king of bittersweet comedy, Charlie Chaplin, stayed at The Mermaid, in the small hilltop town of Rye. Once a great port where British warships protected the south coast, where today small fishing boats still dot the river, Rye is resplendent with colorful buildings of red stone, some ivy covered, some half-timbered (Jackie calls them “bad-tempered”)(Jackie here: That’s what my ears heard.) most topped with rust red tiled roofs.
My car rolled over the cobbled streets, was quickly parked in The Mermaid’s private lot and I hustled up to my room. Which would it be (I wondered with a shudder!) ghost stories run rampant! Guests have reported a lady in white occupies Room 1 and rocks her chair by the fireplace. Room 19 seems at times to house a gentleman in the clothes of yesteryear who sits on the edge of one’s bed. Guests in Room 10 were awakened by a man who walked through their bathroom wall. I must admit relief when I was given Room 25; no spooks, instead, a canopied 4-poster bed high above the carpet and opposite an original brick wall hundreds of years old. And I am happy to report the lovely young owner of The Mermaid, Mrs. Judith Blincow is flesh and blood and completely charming. Could easily be a movie star; quite the English Rose. Along with her late business partner, Robert Pinwill, Judith has kept the Mermaid ghosts at bay and the comfort and service at the highest level. She has retained the sense of history exemplified by the Giants Fireplace Bar (once favorite of the infamous Hawkhurst Gang, smugglers who dared the local authorities to interfere with their fun and games). Judith has added the conveniences of Today like TV and wifi and tea/coffee making facilities along with free parking and full English breakfast. The beautiful and ebullient Mrs. Blincow entertained me for an hour with stories about the Inn enthusiastically pointing out the dozens of fascinating bits of history and original features of the Inn. She brought the past to life for me.
JACKIE: Hmm, maybe I should have braved the cold?
DAVID: Reluctantly, I left Judith to visit the high street of Rye, still medieval in feeling, with shops, restaurants, galleries, museums and historical sites of interest, like Rye Castle and Lamb House, once home to famous writers like Henry James and E.F. Benson. A few blocks down and I was riverside, now peaceful but once bustling and fortified.
My dinner at this hotel lived up to the Inn’s AA award. In my corner table at Linen Fold restaurant with its paneled walls and medieval artwork I indulged with Scallops, confit pork and apple terrine, and whole Dover Sole, Bed was comfy cozy; no howling wind or rattling windows, and no ghostly visits at midnight. Oh well; one can’t have everything.
However, The Mermaid Inn offers almost all reasonable requests; spooks aside.