My husband and I made a trip to the Isle of Wight this past weekend, primarily to see Justin's show, the final one of his 2016 UK tour at the Shanklin Theatre, but also to tour the island. I had never been to the island before, although Andrew had been a couple of times. We drove down from our home in Gloucestershire through Wiltshire and Hampshire to the south coast of England, about a three-hour drive. From there, we took the Wight Link Ferry service which was a 40-minute trip. Shanklin was on the southwest coast and I was surprised that we had about an hour's drive to get there after we got on the island. We checked into our home for the weekend, the Carraghmore Hotel at about 8:30 pm on the night of the 24th. Here are some of the photos we took over the course of the three days of our trip:
First, here's a detailed map of the island, to help clarify where everything I describe is located:
This is the map which was on the board at the ferry station. You can see the mainland and the various ferry routes to the island. We came down from Lymington, Hampshire across to the Isle of Wight port of Yarmouth.
It was after dark when we reached our hotel in Shanklin, but the next morning I went out and walked around the area and took some photos:
It turned out to be a warm, sunny day so it was pleasant to explore the town of Shanklin by foot. Of course, our first stop had to be here!!!
This area of Shanklin was called "The Old Village" and was chock full of cute little thatched cottages with cafes, restaurants, tea rooms and a sweet shop.
We arrived on "Isle of Wight Day", an annual celebration on the island. Many of the buildings were decorated with colorful flags for the occasion.
In the afternoon, we jumped in the car and explored some more of the southeastern coast.
There was a botanical/pleasure garden in the resort town of Ventnor, so we explored a bit of that too. I was surprised at how many flowers were still in bloom. The Isle of Wight has a very mild climate and tree ferns and palm trees thrive there.
I'm a tree-lover, so this place was like a wonderland for me!
One of the strangest trees you will ever come across--the VERY spikey Monkey Puzzle Tree, the national tree of Chile.
The Smuggler's Cove Tea Gardens. Not a bad place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and home-made cake. I was amazed at the color of the water around the island. On this sunny day, it almost had the color of the Caribbean Sea--not bad for the English Channel on a late September day!
After touring around in the afternoon, it was soon time to get ready for dinner and the concert! We had dinner at an Indian restaurant nearby, which turned out to be very good. Then we walked a block or two to the theater, arriving about 6:45 pm.
The concert itself was an enormous joy. We were in the fourth row, slightly stage left of center. As is customary, Justin came out and introduced Mike Dawes to the stage. I think Mike has gotten even better than when I saw him last year. He seems a more polished performer now, more confident, adding humor to his amazing performance. As always, he had the audience spell-bound the entire time. There was a short break after that and he came down to the merchandise tables which were set up inside the theatre to the left, where he signed autographs.
We thoroughly enjoyed the concert and even though I was a little slow to warm to "Wind of Heaven" when I first heard it, hearing it live like this was pure bliss! The song that brought tears to my eyes was "The Best is Yet to Come". Oh my! Justin's voice is SO right for this beautiful song.
There was some unscheduled humor added to the show while Justin was telling the story of what was happening in his life when he wrote "Watching and Waiting". Mike was standing there quietly listening and suddenly there was a loud THUMP and a twang of guitar strings. Mike's pick-up had come off his guitar and fell into the sound hole. It was so funny to see Justin stop talking, turn and watch Mike trying to shake the pick-up out! Mike's guitar tech (Dave?) came out and grabbed the guitar and started doing the same thing, shaking it upside down, but with no results. By this time, the audience was guffawing all over the place. Finally, "Dave" whisked it off the stage and disappeared. Once Justin was finished with the intro, he asked Mike if the guitar was repaired. Mike said "no, and I don't know what to do because you've run out of story!" Mike then said something to Justin and Justin said "I have every confidence in you". Mike was apparently asking if it was OK to do the song with his Telecaster. So he picked that up and of course they performed the song beautifully!
Julie was her usual quietly confident self, performing her parts with ease and perfection and I loved seeing the goofing around between she and Mike. He walks over to her and they always share a joke and a smile. At one point they had a little dance going on where Mike would crouch down and Julie would go up on her toes and then vice-versa! So cute to see.
But the best part for me was the way Justin sounded. His voice was better than I have heard him in some time. His voice was so strong and full. No sign of the throat troubles he has been plagued with in recent years. He did ask the audience to sing "I'm looking for a miracle in my life", as he had at previous shows. The audience was more than happy to sing it for him! After nearly every number, the first six or seven rows gave standing ovations, which I was very happy to see.
It was all over very quickly, as these shows always are. But of course I was on that post-concert high all that night and through the next day.
I wish some of my concert photos had turned out, but my little CoolPix seems to have a lot of trouble taking indoor photos without the flash on, so I didn't get any that weren't a blur.
The next day, our ferry was leaving the island at 6 pm and so we had all day to explore. Here are some pictures we took all around the south and west coast.
The village of Brightstone
The manor gardens at Mottistone, National Trust
Jersey breed of cow. They produce the richest butterfat cream, excellent for ice cream and I think they have the sweetest faces.
Alum Bay. You can see the ski lift that operates from the top of the cliff to the beach below.
These chalk formations on the west side of the island are known as "The Needles". We had a fairly stiff hike up to the top for the view, but it was worth it.
Once we got back to the England proper it felt as if we had left a magical little world behind. The island was almost like a microcosm of England, with all the best of it there and none of the congestion and traffic of the mainland. The highlight of the trip was, of course, the concert. I know I could see Justin, Mike and Julie doing their show over and over and it would never fail to touch me deeply.