Real Anglia: the seaside town of Southwold

Updated: Jun 25

Shacks in variations of blue along the beach in Southwold
The shacks along the beach in Southwold

In all my travels and moves, I had never spent any time outside of London when in England, unless you count Oxford. In the days before the Channel Tunnel, my dad drove us from Dover, but we didn't stop along the way.

This time I had the great fortune to be invited to stay a few days in Southwold, on the coast, northeast from London, in Suffolk. I discovered a different side of England, far from the hustle and bustle of London.

Southwold is a seaside resort town. I expected the shore and the ocean, maybe a boardwalk and a pier, a few fast food restaurants, but there's much more.

The two images above to the right show the "leftovers" in Southwold from the Jubilee celebration events of Queen Elizabeth II's reign: Union Jack flags and knitted crowns on mailboxes.

There is a very pleasant walk along the shore, passing by the multicolored typical English seaside shacks (that cost a small fortune nowadays, even to rent). The cute boutiques dot the town center's streets, along with cafés, bakeries, and two small supermarkets. The charity thrift store has nothing to envy New York's Upper East Side thrift stores: nice houseware, silver cutlery, apparel, accessories, all for low prices.

The lighthouse is the anchorpoint of the town. Fortunately its beams are only directed towards the sea, and not in any bedroom windows.

The main Anglican church, St. Edmund's Church, is very big and dates from the 15th century. It is flanked by a small cemetery. We saw a much smaller Catholic church, built in an almost brutalistic, boxy style.

Southwold Anglican church
Southwold Anglican church

Southwold Catholic church
Southwold Catholic church

The local brewery, Adnam's, offers excellent beer, sold in all of England, and of course on offer in the local pubs. One such pub is The Lord Nelson. Only drinks are served, no food. It's a charming place, with a aarden in the back, customers going in and out and even standing outside chatting, drinks in hand.

Covid appears to have loosened its grip on the British, or they decided that they need to resume regular life. So we went to the movies (first time for me since 2019). The cinema, as it's called here, in in a small jewel of a building and it's called The Electric Picture Palace. As many other businesses, the cinema had to close several times during successive lockdowns. We watched an old spy movie with a very young Michael Caine (who seemed to be wearing eye shadow. So bizarre!). During intermission, an organist rose from below, similarly to the Castro Theater in San Francisco, but on a much smaller scale. There were ice cream cones and drinks for sale.

Walking back from the Southwold Pier one day, we noticed a group of people dressed up, including women wearing fascinators and men wearing morning coats - that's a sight we never see in the United States! It appeared to be a pre-wedding party at a pub; It seems there is a pre-celebration (with alcohol) for just about any event in England; later we heard the church bells for the wedding proper.

View of the Southwold pier and the shore
View of the pier and the shore

Our last lunch was at The Crown, a restaurant and bar downtown, across the street from the thrift store. Food and service were impeccable. Whoever complained about English food hasn't been back for a long time, as we didn't have singla bad meal!

It was wonderful to discover another aspect of English life and Southwold is a worthy representative.

Note: The Southwold Arts Festival runs June 25, 2022 - July 2, 2022.

@SouthwoldArts on Twitter

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