Here we are, waiting to board the ferry from Dover to Dunkerque. It has been an incredible year seeing beautiful landscape, exploring cities and towns, meeting great, inspiring people, making friends, feeling lots of ups and downs, diving into great music and munching delicious vegan food. It is good to feel sad to leave since it expresses what a great time I had. Thank you all, friends old and new, couch surfers, and all you others who made this year so special!
Newcastle (27th to 29th March)
After a fabulous breakfast (yofu and cereal, home-made baked beans, home-made leek-potato cakes, squash,mushrooms and tomato, toast from home-made bread), a farewell-hug and a lunch box with more of those delightful banana flapjacks I left Liz and Eliza House late morning last Tuesday. The weather was still summery and since Liz told me there might be some snow next week, we went for her advice to visit Tynemouth's beach at the coast near Newcastle. The hours reading and dozing passed slowly and the beach filled with hormone driven burping youngsters, the ideal time to leave. We checked in at the hotel in Jesmond in the north of Newcastle (nothing fancy, but very friendly people). Strolled around the neighbourhood and over to Heaton where the day ended with great food again. Had 3-course dinner at the Sky Apple, a vegetarian restaurant, painted in bright pink from the outside and with mostly female customers. Had asparagus and herb salad with roasted hazelnuts and fresh peas (such a joy - hadn’t had fresh peas since I was little!) as starter, a cheese chimichanga (tortilla filled with roast veg, tomato salsa, and vegan cheese) topped with chocolate mole sauce and cream, accompanied by a nice glass of red wine. Too tempted I couldn’t resist having the mixed berry flan, a spongy doughnut filled with vanilla cream, topped with sweet fresh berries for pudding. Happy about all the indulgence of the past days I realized that those pleasures will be kind of rare as soon as I’m back in Cologne. But lucky enough I came across so many great dishes throughout the last year that I hope to recreate some of them back at home, if I can find willing guest to dine with me…
Next day it was time for some proper sight seeing. Lumpi was happy to be left asleep at the hotel while I walked into the city of Newcastle, along an old cemetery. First stop and the centre of the day was the BALTIC, a fabulous gallery for modern art hosting four exhibitions, all free of charge at Newcastle’s Quayside. I felt incredibly lucky since one of the exhibitions featured three digital video installations by Elizabeth Price, an artist I came across in Glasgow several months ago where the British Art Show displayed one of her works (User Group Disco) at Glasgow’s GOMA. I was deeply impressed by her work (download the exhibition guide for more info and an interview with EP) and so happy to be able to see two more pieces and the one I’ve already seen again (and again). Besides the BALTIC, on the opposite side of the river there was another impressing piece to explore: the flow mill. It’s a tidemill, generating its own power for the electro acoustic musical machinery and instruments on board which respond to the river (tide, water quality, …) and the manipulation by visitors. It combines mostly wooden parts with cool electronic elements, exciting to discover. High on arty happiness I strolled along the city centre, through the Grainger Market, Newcastle’s first indoor market, opened in 1835, back to the hotel. The rest of the day was spent Lumpi-compatible: slowly, steady close to cosy soft carpets or lawns.
Though I had a good time in Newcastle, I left with the feeling of having missed quite a lot of the city’s facets. It might be worth a second visit, someday. For now, Lumpi and me are back to Glasgow until next Wednesday. Coming back started with sad news: Heavenly, this wonderful little place for good food, the best white russian and great music has closed down. What a pity!
The English East Coast (Robin Hood’s Bay) and Richmond
Finally we went to the east coast of England, which marks almost the end of our three months of constant travels. Luckily this day of indulgence helped to keep my heart light. Thanks to Fiona’s brilliant advice we visited Robin Hood’s Bay today. The weather couldn’t have been brighter, almost like a first day of summer, and there were lots of satisfied dog grunts, the beach, the salty fishy smell of the sea, coffee and chocolate, The Bell Jar, and this unbelievably good feeling of sunshine on my skin after a long long winter.
Afterwards I drove to Richmond, a beautiful little town north of the Yorkshire Dales, where we would stay once more for a night at my very favourite B&B, the Eliza House. Meeting Liz again felt like coming back to a friend and once again she spoiled us with home made vegan flapjacks (banana this time), loving cuddles and tea. We got a beautifully decorated room and even all the soaps in the bathroom are vegan. The house is a little master piece of romantic retro interior design. And you are invited to live in it. Liz is simply an awesome, warm host. And she isn’t concerned about dog hair, so you’re totally invited to relax and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you - and that’s what we did.
To end the day in another wave of complacency, I took a bath in the pompous bathtub (see pic) and finished The Bell Jar. Now it’s good night Richmond, see you soon, Newcastle…
Via London To Cambridge (19th-22nd March)
Met up with Annegret in London on my way to Cambridge. We hadn’t met since our little trip to Liverpool and Wales, so there was a lot to catch up to. After lunch and a short business visit to the LAMDA the thick London afternoon traffic gave us much more time to chat. I traded some music against coffee and Marmite toast at her place, then Lumpi and me finally hit the road to Cambridge, where we arrived pretty late at our shabby little hotel for the next nights.
The day after, I tried to do some sight seeing with Lunte, but she struggled walking along the streets without soft green under her paws. So we slowly walked a compromise trail to a café, went on to the market square where I bought the best falafel wrap I’ve ever had and a spongy delightful chocolate muffin at a little van (Taste of Cambridge) and headed to the nearest park until early evening.
Next morning there was pure despair when the little daughter of some of the hotel staff was left alone at a breakfast table with a huge pile of scrambled egg and toast. She bravely tried to eat it with the gigantic cutlery, but couldn’t handle it. Weeping she put some of the greyish egg mass onto a slice of toast, but the clumps would fall off each time before she managed to reach her mouth. Eventually one of the waitresses came to help her and squeezed more egg between two slices of toast into a lump sandwich. But still the little girl couldn’t manage to bring toast and egg to it’s mouth which made her so desperate she crawled under the table she was left at and cried heartbreakingly until she was brought to her mother who took care of her again. Hope her next meal was easier to handle! My own mood wasn’t too bright either after this scene and too much time for internet research, writing couch requests and finding a hotel for my next stop (York). Though I felt like an ungrateful, ignorant tourist, I decided not to make another sightseeing attempt of the old town, but to spend the day in the Botanic Garden and at Jesus Green near the narrow boats for decent reading and thinking. Luckily thanks to Chris, a chouchsurfer from Cambridge, I got a little guided tour along beautiful historic college grounds in the evening (of course forgot my camera) before he cooked tasty dinner and we talked and talked and talked.
Wandered around Plymouth last Wednesday. Lumpi and me started at noon on sunny Plymouth Hoe with a tea and some cuddles on a blanket stunned by a great view, Lumpi loved the lawn and wind. Plymouth’s old town, the Barbican, and Mayflower Street near the uni were a bit of a let down. Somebody should make a film in that little shopping centre at Mayflower Street, it had an almost surreal depressing atmosphere. For a pleasant last impression and a nice coffee, Lunte and me went back to Plymouth Hoe for great views and sunset before heading to our Couchsurfing host for the next two nights.
On Thursday we had a proper plan for Dartmoor: Host Dan had briefed me where to go to and what to see, even equipped me with a map. We started in Tavistock with a stroll along the Pannier Market (a market hall with little stalls selling food, clothes, books and bits and bobs). Then to Postbridge for a little walk over an ancient Clapper bridge along boggy patches - Lumpi loved it. Driving along small winding roads through broad, slightly misty countryside Dartmoor showed many beautiful facets, especially the free roaming Dartmoor Ponies. Amidst this beauty sits a picturesque little town around a church: Widecombe in the Moor. Last stop of the day was the tranquil Burrator Reservoir.
Back at Dan’s we cooked dinner (roasted veg, salad, garlic bread) had some drinks and chatted until late. I learned exciting things like regional swearwords, films / tv series not to miss, and FINALLY the name of that yellow blossoming bush you see all over the UK: Yellow gauze! I have to admit, that I wouldn’t have enjoyed my stay in and around Plymouth without the great company of Daniel and his family. Thanks so much for sharing and great hospitality - and for playing my cheesy Carpenters record at appropriate volume!
Time in Cornwall’s already over…
Besides those little impressions I’ve posted earlier, Lumpi and me got around Cornwall - not enough to see all the beautiful places, but enough to enjoy ourselves.
We arrived in Newquay in bright sunshine, walked along the city beach (see here) and had coffee at the sleepy high street.
We’ve been staying at a nice modern B&B. Ideal situated, dog-friendly, vegan and vegetarian breakfast options, very friendly hosts, dog-owners themselves (sweet Boxer lady). Dinner: Chips and mushy peas from nearest chippy.
Misty. Went to St Ives, a beautiful little coastal town with their own little Tate Gallery (!) and saw an amazing exhibition of works by Simon Fujiwara, an artist now living in Berlin with a British mother and Japanese father. His parents got divorced when he was little. His work (sculptures, performances, plays…) are smart pieces about the things that are important to him and relations.
Afterwards I took Lunte to a picturesque beach, Carbis Bay where we had a little lunch break. For the afternoon we did a visit to Penzance, a slightly run-down little harbour town. But found a great little shop, Pure Nuff Stuff, in the beautiful “Egyptian House" (build around 1835), selling home made cosmetics: All cruelty free and besides the lip care thingies with bees wax, everything’s vegan. Right next to the little shop they produce their cosmetics and you can watch through the window. Too tempting aromas to leave with empty hands.
Still misty. Went to Lizard, Britain’s most southerly point. Didn’t expect to see anything besides the grass under my feet and mist, but was treated with some nice coastal views. Shopped in the little retro farm shop near the start of the path to the coast and headed to Falmouth, a bigger town on the southern coast of Cornwall. Maybe it’s the foggy weather and the chilly off-season, but like Newquay, Falmouth is obviously a surfer and summer holiday place, so they both felt a bit sleepy and lacked liveliness. Tomorrow we’ll be heading off to Plymouth and Dartmoor for 2 days. Forecast says the foggy weather will travel with us. :(