Thursday, May 7, 2009

Isle of Wight - London getaway

Tired of the hustle and bustle of central London but not so keen about the pebbled beaches over at Southend-on-sea or Brighton? Fret no longer, just a mere two hours away from London, you'll get sandy beaches (yep, no pebbles), the rolling hills of Cotswold and the limestone cliffs off Dover and the Welsh coast.

I was commuting to work on the Tube one fine day before the May bank holiday when an advert showing a couple walking along a vast pasture with the white cliffs in the background advertising a weekend break at Isle of Wight caught my eye. "Wish you were here", the caption read. That was enough for me and the trip was booked and confirmed by the end of the day.

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Isle of Wight, an island of 380 square kilometres just off Portsmouth in southern England has been a traditional English summer getaway. Even in winter, you can expect the many hotels, hostels, guest houses and B&B filled with Britons desperate to escape the miserable weather but would prefer to stay closer to home.

The ninety minute train journey from Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour station was surprisingly pricy. However, there seems to be a discrepancy between the price shown on the National Rail website (£32/person return)) and the price at the ticket booth (£22). The ferry tickets from Portsmouth to Ryde can be obtained at the ferry terminal. Together with the rail tickets on Isle of Wight, it amounts to an additional £25.

Without a car, we had to rely on the Isle of Wight public transport, which is essentially buses. A day pass cost £10 per person but the route was rather circuitous and on hindsight we should probably have gotten one of those hop on/hop off open top buses.

The choice of Isle of Wight accommodation was more random. After trawling through the internet, I was finally able to get a room at Chester Lodge at Sandown. Chester Lodge's website isn't much to look at but the saving grace is that it's managed by a friendly guy, Brian, who was formerly doing construction in Oxfordshire, more about him later.

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The first time visitor to Isle of Wight should never miss the Whitecliff Bay. The monument, as fondly referred to by locals, is perched at the top of the white cliffs and can be seen along much of Isle of Wight's south-eastern coast. The walk along the coast took us more than 2 hours. It says 3km on the map, believe me it did feel much more than that on the inclined route. Fortunately, there is a café and a restaurant (only only during lunch and dinner) at the top of the cliffs, which makes the experience a whole lot better.

Shanklin Chine is another must go on the Isle of Wight. A short walk away from the Shankin's Old Village, it is totally out of this world with its landscaping. Apparently, Shanklin Chine has been a tourist destination since the early 19th century and had also been a smuggler's den because of its geographical features. It's well worth the entrance fee of £4.80/person.

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The Needles is arguably the most popular destination on Isle of Wight. The eroded cliff remnants at the western tip of the isle comes with its own recreation centre. From the centre, you'll be able to take a chair lift (£4 return) down to the coast and then hop on to a boat (£9/person) that will bring you closer to the Needles.

Now back to Brian. He was telling me that he bought over Chester Lodge five years ago and have been on Isle of Wight ever since.

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"The locals have got two words to describe the life on Isle of Wight… laid back. One can never hope to find a tradesman (plumber, carpenter) on the Isle as they would be on the beach all the time. When the sun is out, they'll be sunning themselves, when the wind gets going, they will be surfing."

That's Isle of Wight for you.

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11 comments:

waitingkitty said...

What a beautiful place! The air must be really fresh too, right? I bet it must have been a pretty good break for you.

Martin in Bulgaria said...

Having been there many many years ago I bet it hasn't changed much. Glad you had a good experience there and the weather was fine.

~kristina said...

I know the advert you mention, so I can't wait to hear if you enjoy your trip. It's on 'the list' of places to go for me as well.
Thanks for your comment on my blog (American Expat in London). Brussels was great. We didn't go to Brugges this trip, as we were literally away for 36 hours, but I've been there previously. Lovely city with one of the best Belgian Breweries (de Haalve Man) I've been to, and their Zot Blonde is the best Belgian beer.
cheers,
~kristina

C K said...

@waitingkitty,
Yupz. After the grey London weather, Isle of Wight is a welcome change. The irony is that I didn't get much chances to head out to the beach when I was in S'pore.


@Martin,
You know what? That's exactly what an English colleague of mine was saying - that he hasn't been there for a long time. He also mentioned that the place was 'infested' with kids when he was there. And yes, he was one of them.


@Kristina,
Hey, great to have you stop by. Perhaps it was the places that I visited (or didn't visit) but I don't find Brussels really appealing.

In fact, I enjoyed Brugges more. Like I mentioned, it was a day trip for us from Brussels so we managed to spend only around 6 hours over there.

Anyway, I've already been to the Isle, just click on the title to read the entire post.

Cheers!

Fëanor said...

CK: so, someone actually pays attention to those adverts on the tube, eh? I'm sure the marketers of the Isle of Wight will be more than pleased. But in pleasing them you've broken the hearts of the Hereforders. Ooh, these choices...

Dutchie said...

Hm ... Isle of Wight ... is this one of the channel islands where one's hard earned pension could be parked safely there *wink* ?

As to beaches in SG, I only know the one on Sentosa. The public beaches in Changi r all gone, isnt it ? Last time I looked there, it was cordoned with huge granite rocks n men were sitting atop them while fishing.

Emm said...

Wow, thanks for putting this place on my map! I think we'll drive there one day.

With trains, you a) need to book at least a month in advance if possible, b) need to buy two single fares instead of a return and c) need to buy a rail discount card if you travel often enough. Hmmm, maybe I should blog about this?? I often travel up to Liverpool by train and often get fares for about £10 - £14 one way.

yoongz said...

Looks & sounds like a wonderful place for a little getaway - sigh!

C K said...

@Feanor,
Oh yes, my attention is divided between my WSJ and the ads on Tube. Honestly some of the ads can be pretty inspiring. :p

@Dutchie,
Eh? Not quite sure whether it's Isle of Wight. I think you are referring to Jersey Island and Gensy as tax havens. But with the recent crackdown on tax avoidance, their status is coming under threat.

Really?! I didn't ahve a chance to visit Sentosa's beaches when I was in Singapore. But there are a couple of them on Sentosa... which one were you referring to?


@Emm,
You're welcome! Having access to a vehicle does have its perks on the island. The journey would be more fuss free I would say. But if you're visiting, do consider to take a walk up to the Monument along the southeastern cliffs. It's quite a sight.

I didn't know that getting two one way tickets can be cheaper as compared to a return ticket. Doesn't quite make sense, does it? Will check out the pricing the next time rounf.


@yoongz,
Oh yeah... it's relatively affordable as compared to... say Spain. :)

Emm said...

Yes, it is officially cheaper too, which is the weird thing. If you are booking through trainline.com, it will bring up your totals and then there is a button saying "two single tickets might be cheaper" or soemthing to that effect and you click on it and voila! It always is.

Dutchie said...

Oh, u r rite. There r 3 beaches I think. We went to Siloso with a friend who was on "home leave" from the States. Took the Sentosa Bus from Orchard Rd which goes right onto the island n back for S$ 7,00 each (incl entry)

In the past, I stayed at the chalets quite often - there were many hen parties to be had n partly bec 1 of our friends has lobang which offers 50% off !

With so many new sights on the island these days, it's quite costly. U practically pay from spot to spot *sigh* - no wonder my family has lost their interest in going there :-(