My parents live in the middle of the countryside, on the border of East Sussex and Kent. It’s a beautiful spot; a mixture of farm-land and nature reserves. They’re about twenty minutes drive from the nearest town, but this does happen to be the medieval town of Rye, so we visit whenever we can (we’re invited regularly as one of the cats has to be sedated to have her claws clipped by anyone except me). Tom and I got the train down last weekend and headed to Rye the first chance we had, to rummage through the antique shops and get some writing done in The Apothecary.
The High Street
The Strand Quay
Cobbled streets, worn brickwork and eccentric, crooked buildings are what you first notice about Rye. Originally located on a huge embayment of the English Channel called the Rye Camber, it’s now two miles inshore due to the channel silting up, but still has a small fishing fleet that bring in a daily catch. The whole town remains largely un-tarnished by modernity. Tweed, leather and antiques are for sale in every other shop, but there are also a few New Age jewellery and crystal shops, an old-school sweet shop, a second-hand records store, and the usual smattering of charity shops. It really is a wonderful place. There are vintage, second-hand and antique shops everywhere, hidden down alleyways and camouflaged as tea rooms, but I’ve highlighted a few of my favourites below:
- Needles Antiques is primarily a clutter of glassware and costume jewellery, but you can also find an eclectic range of ornaments and vintage fashion accessories dotted around. I purchased the carved wooden table here that I mentioned in a previous post, as well as various vases and a strip of handmade lace.
- One cabinet is stocked with Chinese snuff bottles and other oriental delights, and Tom also unearthed the following horror a while ago:
- Pale & Interesting isn’t an antique shop, but does fit with the quirky, vintage theme. As well as floral cushions, storm lanterns and other decorative odds and ends, I’m always intrigued by the collection of medicine jars, poison bottles and bell jars displaying animal skulls, collections of speckled quail-eggs and sea-urchin skeletons.
- Cinque Port Antiques is another of my favourites, as you’re guaranteed to find something intriguing there. The couple who run it have led very interesting lives, and are always willing to chat. They run the shop more as a hobby than a business, so you also feel more relaxed poking around and discussing the provenance of their wares than in other shops.
I was quite taken by these silver cockerels…
… and Tom was rather pleased with this hat. Even if it didn’t fit.
I was also keen on these his-&-hers picture frames, but Tom dragged me away.
I previously bought the most wonderful lamp here, pictured below. A white ceramic coy-carp base, with a huge lotus-flower shade, crafted from pale-pink tulle and stretched over a frame. When I first saw it I dragged my mother over to exclaim at how dreadful it was, but then I realised that I was IN LOVE WITH IT, and promptly bought it. It took a long time to win Tom over, but he’s just about accepted it now.
- Strand Quay Antiques sell a variety of furniture and decorative items, a large proportion of which are sourced from dealers in France. A number of different dealers share the space, so there’s a variety of objects available. I bought a 1920s top hat from Harrods here once, and we’ve unearthed some beautiful paintings in ornate gilt frames over the years.
I had my eye on the blue vase above, but got distracted dragging Tom away from the rusty farm tools below, and forgot to buy it.
- The Quay Antiques & Collectibles is located virtually opposite Strand Quay Antiques, and always has a fine collections of weapons that Tom makes a beeline for whenever we’re in Rye:
I also found an excellent collection of vintage, cobalt-glass bottles there this time, perfect for pink tea-roses or sprays of yellow wattle.
After a lazy wander around the shops we were ready for some tea and crepes, and habit led us to one place only. The Apothecary is one of my favourite cafes, of any I’ve encountered. Sunlight floods through the curving, 18th century bow windows, and small, round wooden tables are complemented by dark leather chairs. Leather-bound books in antiquated jewel tones of scarlet, amber, azure and ochre line the oxblood walls, and the odd skull or medicine bottle reminds you of the cafe’s origins. They have the most wonderful cakes displayed under bell jars, and a good selection of teas like nettle and sweet fennel. It’s the perfect spot to sit and watch passers-by in winter, when the glass panes steam up around the edges, and patrons tumble through the door shedding scarves and coats: but is equally relaxing at any time of the year. You’ll find a lot of mothers and daughters having tea and cake together, and distinguished elderly gentlemen reading the newspaper. And us.
fabulous cakes and crepes
… and me, sitting in the perfect spot for watching people wandering up and down the highstreet.
We finished off the day at The George, where we shared a plate of huge oysters, each shell the size of my hand, scallops, and a whole lobster. The perfect end to a perfect day.
A quiet lounge just off the bar, overlooking the high-street, where we had a couple of drinks before dinner
The restaurant at The George
There’s a lot more to Rye, and looking online it seems to be a blogger’s paradise, so I’ve added links to a few others below:
Does anyone else love Rye as much as I do?! Let me know.
You might also like: