Daily Musings

Sunderland Beaches and Bamburgh Castles – UK Trip Day 11

The Rowan Tree bed and breakfast was excellent beginning to end. The breakfast was lovely and we looked out over the garden as it started to rain.

The coffee served was in a french press and it definitely hit the spot. With our bellies full and ready to go, we checked out. We had a mission to complete before leaving the area of Whitby. Victoria’s mum wanted some Whitby jet. We searched in the jewellry shops (there is a Jet District) but we found some for free on the beach! And we bought a small polished piece.

This is the most important day of the trip for Victoria. Sunderland was her ancestor’s home so she wanted to really be present and see what Sunderland had to offer.

When we had set down the pin in Sunderland in Google Maps, it had landed on a vape shop. Everyone who knew anything about England told us that Sunderland was a hole.

That knowledge in tow, we set out for Sunderland from Sleights. We drove for quite a while and then reached the beaches of Sunderland which are, of course beautiful. The town itself feels a little more city-like and less pretty than many places in the UK, but still quite nice.

We picked up rocks and shells along the beach and soaked up the sea air. It was lovely on the beaches.

When it started to rain, we ducked into the Scullery Pier Point restaurant across from the beach.

The roast beef meal (with mushrooms, tomatoes, peas, chips and gravy) was substantial and somewhat tasty. We also ordered dessert and it was quite decadent.

While we were eating, Victoria figured out a route to take in all of the family name related places in Sunderland, and the Angel of the North finally to arrive at our AirBnB in Bamburgh.

The route figured out, we set about executing this plan as best we could. Let me tell you, Sunderland has streets like a dropped plate of spaghetti. There are endless round-abouts with streets unlabelled, labelled by the largest destination in that direction, or something else generally unhelpful.

So we took quite a while actually getting a 5 minute’s drive across Sunderland to each destination. Maybe that’s why people don’t like it very much.

The last destination was an important one for Victoria. She wanted to take a selfie under the “Davison” sign, but refused to because the middle two letters had been worn so faint as to be almost invisible. She was a bit upset about that.

Now that we had all of the important check marks on our list, we headed out of Sunderland around Newcastle and toward Bamburgh.

On the way the Angel of the North is a pit stop at the side of the road. Where we were told there is no parking lot, it appears one has been created. We parked and took a really terrible all-chins selfie looking up at the angel itself, and several other neat shots.

Yay! All of our important places were found! Well, some were a little tarnished, but we did what we came to do. So all that was left was to go onward to Bamburgh.

Bamburgh unveils itself before you as you descend hilly roads with a large castle on a peninsula of the beach.

The town is quite a sleepy little place and when we tried to park in the castle parking lot, it appears to have been closed. We wanted to figure out where we were going, so we stopped in the driveway there for a moment and realised we had only a little further to go.

Once we pulled up to the AirBnB, we met the owner who was already there. She’s a lovely lady and showed us our comfy room. This one had no TV, but that’s great for me getting this blog done!

Having stowed our things, we weren’t quite ready to pack it in for the day, and set out for a short walk… well it was supposed to be short.

We ended up walking straight out to the dunes, which are just stunning in the setting sun. A view I highly suggest taking in if you have the chance.

We took a lot of panoramas, and then packed it in so that I can write this blog and get a bit to eat. It’s 7:30PM our time when we came in.

Have a lovely day and I hope you like reading our adventures! We have a few more days here left!

Google Photos of Bamburgh beach & dunes

Daily Musings

Coastal Drive – UK Trip Day 8

We awoke the the sounds of birds singing and sun beams peeking through the cracks in the shuttered windows. The shepherd’s hut was a fantastic idea! We sat out on the porch and really caught up with each other. We talked for a while eating our porridge and having a coffee from the Nescafe machine.

We were so very comfortable and at peace that we didn’t want to leave! But we had to get to King’s Lynn for our next AirBnB reservation. To the car!

We took off in the direction of Blyford not really knowing that it was the right one, and happened uppon a small store called K&C Northgreen Farm Shop and an antique emporium! The store had a fenced in area with horses beside it, so we walked up to them and they walked up to us. I tried to pet one, but the moment they discovered we had no food the horse was disinterested.

We ate a chocolate square with many land mines (raisins) that was nonetheless delicious, and had a coffee and chatted a bit. The store owners were friendly and spoke with us a bit about the horses and apparently some cows that had been sick. Something about collick?

We continued onward toward Norwich to see the castle there. Our one castle for the trip! We usually make a rule about keeping castles to a minimum. This comes from Victoria’s dad providing a list of almost exclusively battlefields and castles when asked what he wanted to see in Japan.

Norwich is a beautiful town with a large town centre with tents and old buildings. We walked through Norwich’s “Royal Arcade” and across the street to Norwich Castle. The castle is fairly well preserved and came recommended for its cafe in the bottom level.

What we found inside was actually pretty neat. There is a lot of stone work intact and some of it seems to be missing in other parts. The museum inside explained the many uses of the grounds over time. There was some speculation and more historical accounts as we approach modern times.

It had been converted into a prison at one point and we agreed that we were glad they had kept that area off limits for study. We didn’t need to see an old prison anyway.

Some of the areas were missing displays as they are apparently in the middle of a big renovation. Some school children were making their way through while we went.

I took a lot of texture and archetectual shots while inside to maybe use as reference for modelling later.

The tour group of children were told to check out some intact ancient toilets, so we followed them in after to see what they looked like. Basically just a circular hole on a bench, with a bench across from them for someone else to join you on your royal throne.

The next set of toilets had two circular holes per bench, with two benches on either side of the room, and a sound accompaniment when you approached, sometimes.

Many of the smaller rooms had been covered in graffiti by children when they visited, a history of their own.

We headed for the cafe which had been suggested to us for lunch and they supposedly served Cornish pasties, but did not have them either. Every place we go they are missing the pasties! Victoria says I really should try one. Some day…

We checked out the wildlife and Anglo-Saxon parts of the museum and headed toward our AirBnB in King’s Lynn. Not content to simply drive straight there, we decided a day along the coast would be fine.

So we went north to Cromer, along Westgate Tollbar, then to Hunstanton. We made a stop at the coast to take photos and walk along the beach. It was lovely, and we could see a wind farm off the coast in the distance.

Satisfied with our day, we headed for King’s Lynn and ended up in front of a plaza with restaurants. So we decided that Frankie & Benny’s would be a good place to try. Apparently it’s reviewed as equivalent to the nearby Pizza Hut. Inside it was decked out in 50s/60s decor and played old music. We both had their signature burger and talked a bit. It was a perfectly acceptable burger. I rate it ? / ?

Our AirBnB was in a sleepy part of town in an old converted church. What could be very generously called a parking spot was blocked, so the owners came out, moved their car because they had to leave early, and let us in.

It was a fitful night’s sleep (that’s right, I’m writing this the next morning), but I’m ready to see what the day has for us. Oh… it’s a little rainy. Welcome to the UK.

Daily Musings

Lazy Saturday – UK Trip Day 6

Saturday was a more relaxed day than the others. Victoria woke up feeling under the weather and I had felt a bit achey from all of the walking we had been doing, so we decided to take it easy.

We left the hotel and went for a short walk to check out the laundry facilities we could find. There are actually quite a few along Shepherds Bush road. We stopped into one to see that it’s actually quite expensive to do your own laundry here.

After that, we dropped by Spice Grill’s Curries & Grill’s (sic).

“Do you want the basic service, or the deluxe service where we spell check it for you?”

A certain joke by David Mitchell about sign painters comes to mind. Anyway…

Having experienced a “medium” piri piri in Britain I asked the owner if he could give me a medium spice according to him, not Britain. He obliged and it was delicious. It matched about what you’d find in Toronto for medium spice level at a good curry restaurant, and was full of flavour.

Delicious! We shared this plate as well.

We nipped into the Costa for a quick coffee and to share a square with each other, and beside it was a Superdrug where we picked up some insoles for me as I had neglected to add them to my Blundstones before leaving Canada.

After that, we headed to the park again. It was such a lovely day, we took a slow walk through the tiny park and then sat at the far end for a while.

We took it all in and watched people pass by. One man’s dog was a big fluffy malamute and seemed especially sad that he was not allowed to play with the other dogs. He circled the area where we were so I saw him twice huff, dejected, that he was not allowed to play. I smiled, and the man taking him for a walk kept his same, unimpressed expression.

One thing London has no shortage of are these bicycle share services. This one appears to be the leave-anywhere kind of service, except that there are actually proper parking zones for them. The bicyles all had red tags hanging fromm them saying you had to park in a proper zone to avoid a fine of 20 pounds!

Having our fill of sun, we headed back to the hotel to rest again. Victoria was a little better but still not feeling 100%. I took our clothes across to one of the laundry facilities—for only a pound or two more we could have them do the laundry for us—and we both relaxed for a bit.

At dinner time we decided to try the nearby Thai food place. We shared a pad-see-ew and spring rolls with a mixed berry cider. The whole meal was a bit pricey, about $36 CAD, but that was only really one meal we payed for.

The ambiance was worth the price of admission at least once. It was a cute restaurant.

In the evening we took a little walk south to the other park, Brook Green.

This park was also quite nice, and the same huge trees we sall all over London were here too. We sat in a fenced large open space where some man was playing kick-ball with presumably his children as well as any of the neighbourhood kids who wanted to join.

We played a little bit of Pokemon Go here as Victoria had dropped a lure and she noticed one of the stops was a composer’s old stomping grounds.

Then we stood outside this pub and beat the Blissey out of a yellow gym. Take that, paste-eaters!

When we finished up with that, we walked the diagonal path through Brook Green home having noticed that our friends in cosplay were sword fighting with light sabers again. Apparently they are a club, whom you can find here!

Satisfied with our sleepy day adventures, we retired to the hotel. Instead of watching something we brought with us, we took in British TV and they were showing the story of Eddie the Eagle, the British ski jumper from the 1988 Olympics. It was a real life wild story shoehorned into a save-the-cat adventure formula, changing bits of history to make it fit. This actually made it… worse than it could have been. The real life story of Eddie the Eagle is worth a read.

Sunday we start our first road adventure ending in a farm-house cabin! See you then!

Daily Musings

Climate Protest, Tate Modern, and the Thames – UK Trip Day 5

We started out by heading toward the climate change protest. Since we were headed via the Victoria line, we took a few photos of Victoria in front of her line sign.

On the way to the protest we found Penguin Random House UK, which was a nice surprise for Victoria. She’s trying to get published and she’s always been an avid reader.

One nice thing I noticed is that there are some raised and separated bicycle lanes. That seems much safer than just a line painted on the road, and pylons which drivers seem to enjoy running over.

I didn’t know this but we were headed for the Thames, so I was able to see it too for the first time. It is very brown, with many impressive buildings surrounding it.

We didn’t have to use the map as there were already swarms of people making it toward the protest site. We passed the Tate Britain along the way, but didn’t go inside as we had a mission.

Victoria pointed out more palm trees, which would never work in Toronto, so that was novel. We had finally arrived at the site and this was much bigger than we had anticipated. Protests in Toronto are not typically even close to this scale.

There were a lot of good signs and the protest took over a street and the adjacent park. There was a giant stage where the leaders of the protest said their piece, followed by a live band, which was a bit different from how the protests we had been to happened.

We were standing directly in the sun and after we had enough of that we made our way back, stopping for a walk along the banks of the Thames along the way. Victoria and I found quite a few interesting bits and pieces including a large black molar! Maybe from a cow?

Fully exhausted, we had planned to go back to the hotel for a nap, but London had other plans. A jumper cancelled all of the subway trains between ourselves and our hotel. We didn’t know this at the time, so we spent 10 or 15 minutes waiting on the sweltering tube station platform and took the train 1 stop before exiting onto the street.

We tried to find somewhere to go to the loo, and maybe have lunch, but there was really nowhere good/inexpensive. We found out that the bus on the surface went our way anyway, so we finally had a ride on a double-decker bus!

Lots of traffic and police sirens. We could have walked quicker, but were exhausted and enjoyed the sit. The bus was very slow, so I took some photos of Hyde Park, which we had also not seen yet.

After a brief nap, and Victoria with practically no rest at all, we had to head back out to meet Victoria’s friend Nick!

They had not seen each other in about 20 years, so even when we were standing about 10 feet away from each other it took a few minutes for them to recognize each other.

When we had said our hellos, we made a plan and walked over to the bust of Joseph Bazalgette, an engineer who is notable for finishing probably the first and last London public works project on time. He was responsible for the first major sewer system in London, and it was no small feat. We of course took nerdy appreciation selfies in front of the monument.

Nick’s next suggestion was a cafe in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields. It was very crisp and clean for a crypt. There were interesting curved ceilings which lead into the columns. The floor had a few plaques which were completely unprotected, worn away under foot from years of foot traffic.

We crossed the foot bridge at Embankment station which was wavy and seemed to sway with the foot traffic. Nick suggested we take some touristy photos in front of the eye of London, which we did, as well as capturing a few photos of Big Ben during its face-lift. We all need a little care sometimes, it’s okay.

We walked along the other side of the Thames, past the National Theatre for a great view of the variety of modern buildings London has to offer. We were set on seeing the Tate Modern, which is free to enter and has some interesting displays.

Once we had our fill of culture, we headed for the Founder’s Arms pub nearby. We each had 1 pint and a very good chat. It was a great spot to take some night shots of the skyline, so Victoria grabbed my camera and took a few.

Nick had to get home to his family, and was taking a train from Paddington station. We were under the misapprehension that we had seen Paddington, but we had not. We had seen a tiny section of the tube station attached to it. Paddington station is huge. Nick insisted we take a photo with the real statue of Paddington if we were to take any at all.

We all wanted chips, but the nearby options were slim, and we headed into the McDonalds for some fries. There was no gravy and cheese curds, however. No poutine for us!

We spoke with Nick awhile until he had to get onto his train, said our goodbyes and headed home. What a nice day. Thank-you Nick for showing us around.

Daily Musings

Day at the Library : UK Trip Day 3

Today we headed out to see the British Library. On the way we stopped by a local market to see what it had to offer.

It reminded us of the market in Japan because both are right beside a transit line and curve along the length of the track, and both have small booth sellers. There really isn’t anything like it in Toronto. It was novel to us.

We had a very good iced coffee at The Italian Coffee Club while we waited for the man at the momos booth to cook some up fresh for us. They were also delicious.

A pleasant lunch in our bellies, we headed for the tube station. There were two police officers and staff at the door today. Strange.

I was a little freaked out, as I always am with police officers around, especially when they usually aren’t there, but I strode by passing my wallet over the gate and it let me in fine.

I continued to walk and turned to see if Toria were behind me. She was having trouble scanning her card momentarily. Then the transit staff lady told her to step back.

“It’s like I’m talking to myself…” she muttered. Is this some kind of British passive aggression? Seemed pretty odd.

The ride itself was uneventful. We rode the circle line around to the north end of it arriving at Euston Square. Here we exited and made a right and walked in a big circle around the next block or so to arrive at Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Cafe!

Not familiar? I wasn’t either but I had been informed that it was the filming location for the newer Sherlock TV series. We took a series of photos and went inside.

Inside were more photos up on the wall and a drawing in the corner. A small display case was on the left and some very 20th century diner tables.

The food was passable but bland. Something we expected to find in Britain, but this place was particularly inoffensive. It hit the spot though, and that’s all that really mattered. We also had a pretty good ginger beer. Maybe not good to people who like a lot of ginger, but it was one which Victoria would actually drink. It was watered down and sweet.

Then we exited and headed back north and then west toward the library. There was quite a bit to see in here and I think you could spend a lot of time just exploring the library alone.

We happened upon the rare books display, which was kept dim and cool to preserve the aged and delicate tomes. Some were more delicate than others. I saw some people taking photos at some booths surprisingly some with flash as well, despite the message at the front about light damaging the books.

Kids were using phones, but some old guy with a standard point and click camera was using the autofocus complete with a visible light range finder shinning on the book. Oops!

I decided I could get away with at least one shot without any kind of light emitting from my camera, so I took this one to show off the pretty illustrated books seen below.

We took a look in the book store and the gift shop, didn’t find anything of interest and headed outside for a coffee. We were both quite tired at this point. Perhaps jet lag. Perhaps it was the 25000+ steps we took yesterday.

Victoria had asked me on our way over if I wanted to stop at Paddington station since I had made note of it on the way over.

I said that it wasn’t that important to me, because I was pretty tired, but we stopped over anyway to see what was there.

I did end up taking a lot of photos here. It turns out it’s at the eastern part of Little Venice, which we had previously intended to explore!

There was a great little art show here showcasing art that combines electronics and physical media such as metal, resin, plastics, and lights. I took a few neat looking videos of the pieces exploiting the depth of field control of my DSLR.

We did get video of some water fowl for Natalie. There, I hope you like it!

A duck, for Nat. (I think)

I saw this sign both misspelled and silly and decided to pose beside it with the shirt that Victoria had given me. (She decided she does not like graphic Ts anymore, and it was previously hers.)

Then we returned to the tube station and headed back home. We were very tired at this point, so we took in some UK television and headed for bed.