Why Rye?

I spent the last two days in Rye, a coastal town that reminded me of Cape Cod, MA (minus the mini-golf).

The medieval town of Rye is perched on a hill overlooking salt marshes and the sea on the southern coast of England.  Once a trading post and the Western seat of naval defense against the French in the 14th century, it is now a tourist destination known for its quaint antique shops and quirky art galleries.  I heard the call of seagulls,  smelled the salty air, and walked the cobblestone streets past places like The Mermaid Inn and The Hope Anchor.  All I needed was a Murdick Fudge shop, and I could have been on the Cape!


So why Rye?

I was on an adult “class trip” with my Comic Novel Literature class.  E.F. Benton immortalized the town of Rye when he modeled the fictional town of Tilling after it in his popular Mapp and Lucia series.  These novels feature humorous incidents in the lives of mainly upper-middle-class Brits in the 1920s and 1930s, vying for social prestige and “one-upmanship” in an atmosphere of extreme cultural snobbery.  The grandest residence in Rye is Lamb House, famously the home of author Henry James from 1898 to 1916.  E.F. Benton took over ownership of the house from 1917- 1930 while writing his Mapp and Lucia novels. Our tour guide pointed out the vantage points where the nosy neighbors snooped, the lovely cottages where they gossiped, and the cobbled streets where they preened.  He claimed that Benson’s novels were full of “polished bitchiness”, my new favorite phrase!

You would think that the town would be relatively sleepy in March, months before the popular summer season.  And yet, we were barely able to secure hotel rooms because it was Rye Bay Scallop Week (I cannot make these things up!)  The many inns were brimming with people who flock to Rye for a week of scallop harvests, scallop cooking classes, scallop shuckling demonstrations, and scallop tastings.  Who knew scallops could elicit such a fuss?

Not to be too polished bitchy, but I tried the Rye scallops at a local pub and found them a bit briny and gritty. 


Share on FacebookShare on Facebook

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: