Isle of Wight
Carolyn and I arrived on the Isle of Wight, a scant 2 1/2 hours from London if you don't miss the ferry, which we did. Fortunately, that gave us some time to explore the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and learn about The Mary Rose, a Tudor ship that went down in 1545. The ship was rediscovered in the 70s and was raised in 1982. The ship is being restored and will be open to the public again in 2012.
We checked into the Winterbourne Country House, a grand stone mansion overlooking the water where Charles Dickens wrote much of David Copperfield. Dickens declared it "the prettiest place I ever stayed in my life at home or abroad." Owner Andrew Eckert is the gracious owner and host. The house isn't posh, but it perfectly exemplifies gemütlichkeit, the German term for a friendly coziness.
For dinner, we tried out The Pond Cafe, a short stroll through the impossibly lush and serene town of Bonchurch. The cafe is the brainchild of Robert Thompson, the Isle of Wight's esteemed Michelin-starred chef who owns and runs The Hambrough, in nearby Ventnor. The cafe is a tiny boite with seven tables inside and, if weather permits, four outside. The food, prepared by Thompson's protege James Newhan is sublime. Homemade linguine with crab, chili, and zucchini was that rare, but perfect combination of simplicity and flavor.