Tag Archives: traveling

We’ve gone on holiday by mistake

Well not quite, but that’s almost what it felt like. Without much notice, I found myself heading upto Northumberland for a few days and the Mrs came with me. The reason for this will become apparent but it meant we had a good 3 clear days available to us – even if the clarity was of diary commitments rather than the weather which obviously hadn’t received that message! It’s the first time I’ve been to Northumberland for any time. This Devonian Expat has made it to various places considerably further North than she ever thought, but you can’t get any further away from Devon before reaching the national border! It meant I was rather keen to explore and eager to see what is so special about this area of which I’d heard so much about. All the people I’ve met who have spent much time in the North East have praised it very highly.

So, our travels started with a good drive through mid Northumberland along the coastal road with a rather keen castle-spotter telling me about each as we found it. Devon’s not big on Castles… Northumberland on the other hand… We stopped for lunch at a really beautiful village (with a motte and bailey castle, apparently) for lunch. Should you ever find yourself in Warkworth and need a bite to eat I would very highly recommend the pub on the left, although the one on the right looked good too. Also, the cake shop with the chocolates looked an experience worth having although we were rather stuffed from the food at the Mason’s Arms. The whole area is beautiful.

We headed over to join the coast road in order to see the views… we hadn’t, however, managed to combine this sightseeing trip with appropriate weather. It was foul! Visibility was non-existent and it’s worth saying this was the weekend of the severe weather warnings and flood alerts for Northumberland! Despite this, the environment still managed to look good. We headed up through Seahouses to Bamburgh, whose Castle was the most impressive in stature of all we saw that weekend. Bamburgh, too, was very beautiful but very different to Warkworth. The plan was to stay there for a couple of nights and head over to Holy Island. The weather, however, suggested this wasn’t the best plan.

The following day, rather than head to Lindisfarne (barely visible due to the morning weather), we went back and explored a couple more coastal settlements. Seahouses offered us a good set of proper fish and chips as well as a look over the very large waves to the Farne Islands. It wasn’t the day for a boat trip round there either! We carried on, and the weather improved so we set off for yet another castle… Dunstanburgh. Accessible from Craster, it’s a walk along the coastline and it was truly stunning. The rough seas had brought with them the beauty of a soggy and windswept environment but it also meant only a few people had decided to do the walk. The moorland, complete with sheep, went right down to the coastline. The coast I’m most familiar with has cliffs but these gentle slopes meant we had such a great view. The castle looked like it had always been there; it’s ruined form looks truly part of the landscape and I could never imagine it in its fully functioning state. We didn’t make it over to the castle itself, and heard later that the tide made it inaccessible. What, for me, was also an interesting part of the landscape was both a sad but rather striking aspect of the pollution. The strong tide had left a track of foam in its path. The foam formed interesting shapes and danced in the wind, reminiscent of some of the mythical creatures seen in Hiyao Miyazaki’s films. They did almost seem to have lives of their own, especially when the wind caught them and they began to dance. Our return to Craster wouldn’t have been complete without picking up some of their world famous kippers, and the smell of the sea and the smoke house was definitely a defining memory.

Our evening trip included a trip to Seahouses for some fish and chips which we duly ate in the car while watching the sea and the lighthouses of the Farnes. The final element of the trip was a visit, on the final morning, to the RNLI museum to Grace Darling, a heroine of the area who I’d never heard of. It turned out she was a figure of celebration in the Victorian era who, along with her father, had been involved in a notable rescue. It turned out that she didn’t want to be a famous person so I shall not linger on her any longer, however interesting her story was.

What made the holiday so special was the knowledge that we didn’t have to rush around and see everything in that visit. While it’s not an area I’d seen much of before, I would almost certainly get the opportunity to go again as the Mrs and I will be moving to the North later in the year.

The holiday had been something of an accident, rather than a mistake, because I’d been up North for a job interview, and it was one I got. I found out the night before we set off on our Northumbrian mini-holiday. It is hugely exciting to know where we’re going, that we’re going together and we can settle. I always intended to move from this job towards the second half of this year and now we know to what role I’ll go, and when. Horray for these things, and horray for an exciting and beautiful place to settle.

Noteworthy Good Service

Despite my frequent gripes about train travel we are incredibly fortunate to have two very, very good teashops – one at each of the local stations and they do make life considerably more tolerable… so much so in fact I’d like to share my great joy from todays experience.

On returning to the larger of my local stations, I grabbed a drink from the aforementioned place.  As part of my ‘health kick’ I’m often opting for soy milk in drinks rather than dairy.  This is a regular occurance but today was the first time it was met with the following response.  After expressing my desire for chocolate on my drink, the assistant asked me whether I had a dairy allergy before adding it to my drink.  I was really impressed at her courtesy and awareness.

The other notably excellent tea shop can be found at the other central station, in fact just across the road from where I work.  They are mostly notable for selling rather excellent tea, called Teapigs.  I would very highly recommend the tea, and the pigs are a very good fun way to get a wonderful brew.

Horray for good tea shops which make the journeys tolerable.

A blip in the recession

In the rising levels of unemployment, and general problems associated with the ‘economic downturn’ it might be worth contacting Arriva Trains Wales if you need a job.  It appears they’re rather under staffed.

Yesterday the Mrs and I went to see Ramblin’ Folkie and her Mr.  A really lovely day was had by all, particularly as it was a joint birthday celebration. We went for a lovely meal, went and looked at the Castle Ground (all 3 feet of it or similarly small area) and headed back to RF’s for some good catch-up and some truly excellent brownies.  As she and I were both preaching this morning we had planned to leave with plenty of time to get home.

We arrived at the station to discover the alleged train had unexpectedly become a rail replacement bus.  RF lives all of 50 minutes away as the train goes, but the journey becomes significantly longer by road.  However reluctant we were to embrace this unexpected, and previously undocumented, carrier to Home we had little choice.  It turned out that the bus driver was as enthusiastic about the journey as we were.

The other point of relevance is that the route is a local service so should stop at many stations.  The driver took us to the first station town and it appeared he’d not been there before.  Relying on his GPS system for guidance, and the directions of one of the passengers, he turned down the road to the station.  A road which had at the top of it a sign declaring the road unsuitable for HGVs.  You’d think that a bus driver would deem the road unsuitable for his vehicle but he bravely soldiered on down the road.  The access road to the station was not wide enough for his bus, and the turning ahead to get out of the labyrinth of single-track roads was too sharp for him to make.  The only other road was a one-way street which we were facing the wrong way.  It looked as narrow and twisty as the rest of the routes around us.  The driver decided, however, that this very well-used road offered the only possible way out.  Forcing his bus through the streets never designed for cars, let alone buses, he struggled on to the anxiety and frustration of all around.  To give the guy some credit, he managed to manouver the bus through the streets without hitting anything but if he had only obeyed the road signs in the first place it wouldn’t have been necessary.

Having had this traumatic experience he then proceeded to omit the next station, and on our arrival at the second of our journey (and third of the route) he decided two things.  Firstly, he became determined not to visit any station which wasn’t deminded by the passengers, and secondly he was going to try and get us to the nearest major connecting station in time for the last train.  His desire to get home was evident long before the nasty incident with the narrow streets.  In his desire to get to the connecting station rather than the destination, he wasted time as we did, inevitably, miss the train.

The driver spent the journey listening to really terrible music and expressing his frustration via the phone calls which formed much of our accompaniment.  Just to make the journey all the more desirable, the toilet on the bus had been smashed on the previous days rail replacement travel.

The reason the driver gave us for the necessity of his service was due to staff shortages – a reason little likely to engender support and understanding in the extremely frustrated passengers.  We eventually arrived nearly an hour after we should have done.  Suffice to say, my service this morning was all the more coherant due to one hour less sleep.

Unfortunately both the Mrs and I have been unduely affected by problems on the trains, and our ongoing series of letters to the relevant companies attests to this.  Mr RF has even got as far as suggesting not going on a train with the Mrs!

On our return from Grandad’s funeral, our direct train (chosen so we could sleep) led to us having to change trains in Bristol, wait 40 minutes in the freezing cold before getting on rolling-stock with such excellent suspension we were affected by motion sickness.  Arriving at the Mrs’ home station about an hour after we should have done, following such an emotionally challenging day.  While that experience was by far the most difficult of our recent train traumas, it is by no means the only one.

As people caught up in the realities of a long distance relationship, train travel is the frequent consequence.  It is the only way we can get to one another but it increasingly seems to come as the most unreliable form of transport.  It will be a great joy when we are no longer required to travel between cities but for the meantime the weekly or fortnightly train travel is now approached with trepidation and anxiety.  How to ruin a beautiful relationship – me and the train that is, not me and the Mrs.

Blogging from home

I’ve just discovered that my sister is keeping a blog and I’m not allowed to see it. Fair enough, I suppose. I just hadn’t thought she’d have such a thing.

It was something of an eventful journey home. I left The Other City (although surely it’s just The City now) at about 5.50 yesterday, 25 minutes after the train was due to leave. I arrived in Exeter this morning at 12.20, lunch time. I know the journey isn’t the shortest ever, but that’s three times the usual length, even with the delays. It did call for an impromptu stop with the nuns though. There are worse places to get stranded than Birmingham when there are lots of friendly people in the area. 🙂 On the practical side it was such a relief to have somewhere to stay.

The unfortunate side effect of this is that I won’t have time to go to the Ship Meet tomorrow. I must phone the relevant people to let them know. 🙁 It would have been really nice to see them, and it is still the main reason I’ve come back this weekend. Oh well, there’s always next year.

It’s glorious sunshine in the south west at the moment and mum’s somewhat gutted that she’s going to be leaving this to spend time in the grottiness (weatherwise) that makes up the more Northern areas of the country.

Anyway, I can’t really get my head round much at the moment having been completely addled by the journey down here, so I do apologise.

On the whole things are going well with the flat and job and it’s nice to be settled. I’m trying to move most of my stuff out of the family home but I’m not sure that my little flat is going to be big enough to hold it all. We’ll have to see.

Anyway, I have to go and find things to pack…