Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who is That Woman on the Cobb?

The Cobb at Lyme Regis, 1989

I will confess that there are two times I’ve traveled to places I wanted to see because they were shown in movies or TV shows. Actually, there are a lot more if you consider all the movies filmed in places like New York, Paris, London and Venice. But I didn’t go to those places just because I’d seen then on movies or on TV.

I was a big fan of the television series Twin Peaks. It didn’t really matter who killed Laura Palmer. Each week’s episode revealed yet another strange character, plot twist or something just so intriguingly weird that you had to keep coming back to see if there’d ever be an explanation for any of it.

At some point during the run of the show, I found myself on assignment in Seattle with a day to myself. It was winter, rainy and cold, not really suitable for walking around downtown. Instead, I got a map and a rental car and drove out to Snoqualmie Falls, which was either the inspiration or the actual location—I can’t remember which—where many of the Twin Peaks scenes took place. I had lunch at The Salish Lodge overlooking the falls and returned to Seattle. I felt a little silly that I’d gone somewhere to see a TV show location. But there you are.

This wasn’t without precedent, however. In 1989, my wife and I went to England for the first time. After several days in London we headed out for two weeks of driving around the countryside.

Our first night out of London was spent at Lyme Regis, a small Regency-style village on the south coast of England heralded today by the local tourism touts as “the pearl of Dorset.” In 1989, “pearl” wasn’t exactly the word we’d have used. The pub and inn down by the harbor was teeming with a rough and drunken crowd. Fights spilled out onto the lane in front of the place. We thought it better to find another inn up the hill.

Our original reason for going to Lyme Regis was not because we had any connection with the place or historic interest. It was because the seawall at Lyme Regis was featured prominently in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman. For reasons no one’s quite sure of, the harbor at Lyme Regis is call “the cobb.” If you remember the movie, you’ll remember that the character played by Jeremy Irons is intrigued by a woman named Sarah, played by Merrill Streep, who walks out on the seawall hoping that her French lover will return. “Who is that woman on the cobb?” he asks, only to find that she’s considered the town floozy. You don’t have to guess how the story ends.

We went down to the cobb the next morning and stayed long enough to take a picture and get soaked in the rain. Afterwards we followed the coast west to a place called Beer Head that sounded like it might hold promise. Along the shore there we picked up a bunch of white rocks—one of which is atop my bedroom dresser today—and found absolutely no beer. A little further down the road we visited a botanical garden at Bicton Park and tried to act excited about British palm trees.


  1. OMG, I immediately recognized this as where Meryl Streep turns around in that hooded cape here. Awesome! And I also loved Twin Peaks. That show was classic. What a fun post.

  2. Love this! And in particular love the British names for their establishments. I too have been to Snoqualmie is beautiful there. There's nothing like the drive through the Pacific Northwest. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I actually did the extremely dangerous thing (something I learned from my husband when we were driving around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in CRAZY traffic) of driving with one hand and leaning out the window and taking pictures with my cell phone with my other hand...what was I thinking????!!!Thanks for another wonderful post....

  3. Did you have pie while overlooking the falls?