A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jacquiedro

"Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside"

Checking Out Bridlington while Checking In on the Folks

sunny 5 °C

From my first moments in Bridlington, it became clear that my parents are implicated in Emma’s conspiracy to fatten me up before the wedding. Arriving close to one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, I was transferred immediately to a nearby public house for a massive, traditional Sunday lunch of succulent roast beef, crispy yorkshire pudding, and roast potatoes. I’m sure there were some vegetables involved too, but I was far too busy cramming everything else in my mouth and washing it down with jugs of beef gravy to notice. When the feasting was done, I squeezed myself into the back of the car for the short drive back to Brid thinking that I still had three weeks to go until the wedding. If I just stop eating now, there’s a chance – albeit a small one – that I could still look half decent in my bridesmaid dress.

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But back in Bridlington, signs of the familial conspiracy continue to manifest themselves, and I’m surprised my folks could open the front door to the house, as filled as it was with all my favourite temptations installed - en masse - specifically for my visit: maltesers, party rings (british cookie), marshmallows, chocolate raisins, jaffa cakes, quality street (british chocolate assortment designed to remove all crowns/fillings etc in one sitting), crunchy nut cornflakes, fondant fancies, and the most decadent chocolate cake you can imagine. Bear in mind that my visit was for about 60 hours and you’ll understand my predicament. Between them, my Mum and Dad had amassed enough sweet stuff for 60 years. I resign myself to getting to work and doing the best I can, not wanting to offend anyone (hey, it’s a hard job, but I’m up to the challenge…).

The good news is that I found myself wide awake at 2am on Monday, so that gave me an unexpected additional five hours or so to work on the stash of goodies and STILL leave me with an appetite for brekkie. Monday is a designated rest day but after a perfect breakfast of crunchy nut cornflakes and an Aberdeen rowie, the three of us headed off to Scarborough for some Christmas shopping.

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An Aberdeen roll (aka buttery, rowie) features large amounts of butter and lard, to which you add - when toasted - more butter! Sounds disgusting. Tastes yummy, but only to former Aberdonians.

My Dad, fearful of a “I went to Brid and it was boring” type blog, insists on taking me out for the day and showing me the sights on Tuesday. With the 'wrong' kind of weather, this could have been the worst day of my life, but the weather surprises us both by offering up a cloudless blue sky, and a quick tour around town reveals a Bridlington I hadn’t had the opportunity to enjoy before: an historic downtown area complete with a 17th century high street that so perfectly matches the stereotype that it could – and I believe has – been used in many a period drama. But Bridlington is a fishing port and a seaside resort, so we have little time to waste today away from the water.

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Parking a few miles out of town, we walk a mile or two further down the beach. The tide is out – far out - revealing one of the widest and cleanest beaches I’ve ever seen. The combination of clear blue sky and icy air seems to prolong the golden yellow veneer normally enjoyed only by the early risers. But today we enjoy it for hours, and almost all to ourselves, save a few dog walkers, one kite-flyer and a handful of men with buckets and spades patrolling the sand closest to the sea. The sky may be blue but the icy air is vicious, and we have to walk briskly from time to time to keep warm.

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Dad walking along the beach.

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Within the last few days, millions of mussels have been dumped at the high-tide mark, leaving a two-metre thick band of dark blue along the top of the beach. We missed what must have been a ferocious but joyous feast among the seagulls as all that remains is countless empty shiny shells that crunch underfoot.

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At the opposite end of the beach, closest to the breaking waves, there are a handful of welly-clad men with pitch forks and buckets. Dad suspects they’re looking for lug-worms and we wander over for a closer inspection. Sure enough, these guys are collecting worms to be used as fishing bate. One young fisherman explains that he uses many of the worms himself, but that he could earn 70 to 80 british pounds (that’s about a million US dollars) a day selling a catch of 150 or so worms. That’s real money! But to be fair, it’s physically demanding work. First, you need to find the tell-tail sign of worm-life: a round squiggle in the wet sand about an inch in diameter. Next, you dig down a couple of feet – hard work in the tightly packed, wet sand - looking for the tunnel that houses the worm. Many times, you’ll fail to find the tunnel and move on. But, if you’re lucky, the tunnel will lead you to the prize: fat, giant worms about six or seven inches long. Our chatty young fisherman happily retrieved one from his bucket to show us. When he told us that they’d spit their own guts up if you don’t handle them correctly I took more than one step back…

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Collecting worms. You can see the mounds of sand he's left behind him and, in the distance, Bridlington.

Further down the beach, we head back to the high-tide line to take a closer look at dozens of large concrete blocks placed here during the second world war. Dad explained that this beach was considered an attractive – even likely - landing target for invading German forces during WWII. The invasion never materialized, of course, but I can report that Bridlington was - and remains - ready!

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We wandered back into town for - well, it just had to be - fish and chips! In addition to being a popular seaside resort, Bridlington is one of the largest fishing ports in the north east, so the cod was so fresh it was practically still twitching as it was battered and thrown into the hot oil.

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Nothing like fish and chips by the British seaside!

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Not quite as large as the London Eye, Bridlington's Eye on the Bay is currently closed amidst funding issues.

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It being December, Bridlington's seafront attractions were mostly closed, but we walked along the front to the fishing pier where a number of young boys were monitoring multiple fishing reels strung over the edge. The tide was on its way back in, but dozens of boats in the harbour were still sitting in mud. Ducks nestled in the mud, enjoying the warm glow of the sun while small birds explored this morning's lobster traps and fish nets, hoping to find an abandoned scrap of ocean bounty.

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After a quick refreshment at Dad's local, we headed home where Mum was working on my next compulsory feeding (looking semi-decent as a bridesmaid is increasingly unlikely but you can see it isn't my fault...). So, as the aroma of garlic and rosemary infused roasted lamb wafted from the kitchen, I worked on updating software on my parents' computers.

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Caught in the act: food-for-IT-support scandal.

My Bridlington visit culminated with a delicious roast dinner with, you guessed it, more roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding and gravy. Thanks, Mum!

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After an awesome visit to Brid where I was re-acquainted with the comforts of home, I'm heading off to Cairo tomorrow to catch up with Lloyd and his brother.

Posted by jacquiedro 07:13 Archived in England Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Coming Full Circle in London

Where it all started on July 5th...

sunny 2 °C

Since London was once my home, it felt like Lloyd and I were coming full circle when we landed very early on Saturday morning into Heathrow. Even though we have almost a full month left, we are both starting to get a little sentimental about the impending closure of this wonderful chapter in our lives. Even immigration’s sharp ‘what are you doing here?’ (a tough question at 6am in the morning after 24hours of travel!) couldn’t prevent the warm and fuzzy feeling we carried through customs and into the arrivals’ lounge.

Happily, the FREEZING early morning wind did the trick and our warm and fuzzies evaporated with the steam of our Starbucks as we waited for my frankly heroic brother who had generously (stupidly?) insisted on picking us up. All three of us enjoyed a pretty spectacular sunrise over London as we drove right across town to Docklands.

Can you hear the wedding bells? I’m happy to report that – later this month - the blog will feature the impending nuptials of my brother, and Lloyd and I spent half the day with the bride ensuring we’d be properly turned out for the big day. Not, of course, before she had cooked the most welcome hot English brekkie with real bacon! What with all the food Emma had generously produced – and the chocolate by my bedside – I have to suspect that she’s working to fatten me up so that I’ll look even more obese next to her on the big day ;o)

And from here, Lloyd and I go our separate ways for a few days. Late on Saturday, Lloyd will arrive in Cairo to spend a few days with his brother, Roger. I think more diving is on the agenda – this time hopefully with better conditions. And as for me, I’m heading up to Bridlington in the north of England to spend a few days with my folks. As they normally come and visit us in California, we don’t get up there often enough, and I was horrified to realize that they’ve moved THREE times since my last visit!!! So, I’ll be picking up a train on Sunday morning and heading north hoping to arrive in time for a traditional Sunday lunch.

(By the way, this post was written AND posted on the train between Doncaster and London...... how cool is that?)

Posted by jacquiedro 12:30 Archived in England Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Up Close and Personal with Sydney's Icons

Walking, Sailing, Climbing and Whining

sunny 24 °C

Our second and last full day here was inevitably packed as we tried to cram our senses with as much Sydney as we could possibly squeeze in with so little time. We’ve walked so much in the city that our feet are complaining but, once again, we started the morning with our now daily stroll through the Botanic Gardens. Even though it was our third time through, we still found fresh distractions in the park – and trust me I’m not normally that interested in birds and flowers, but they’re really a LOT more interesting here – so much so, in fact, that we missed our preferred tour time at the Opera House!

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I wish we’d been more organized and made time to see a concert in the Opera House (tickets are not as expensive as you think, and there's a variety of genres, from ballet and opera to rap and fringe drama), but we had to make-do with the ‘Essential Tour’ which offered a walk through some of the key venues in addition to a well done audio-visual presentation that charted the history of the Opera House. We learned that Jorn Utson’s winning design was initially discarded for flouting competition rules, but was retrieved by chance only to cause engineering firm Ove Arup so much difficulty that they finally quit the commission.

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Utson's original designs were "simple to the point of being diagrammatic" which perhaps inevitably caused tension between architect, engineers and the government. What was intended as a three year project ended up taking seventeen years, and designer Utson quit in 1966, seemingly unwilling to compromise in the face of challenges from the engineers and contractors.

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Close up of the panels that cover the roof of the Opera House

Happily, Utson reconciled with the project just before the Millennium and has been advising on refurbishments since.

During our Opera House tour, the low cloud cleared allowing us to see Sydney Harbour in sunny splendor for the first time. Learning from our Milford Sound experience, we immediately seized the opportunity and enjoyed a quick harbour cruise which took us out almost as far as Manly. We were surprised by the size of Sydney, which seems to extend on and on as far as the eye can see, encompassing every one of the bays that we sailed past. Heading back to Bennelong Precinct, we were able of course to enjoy a magnificent view of the Opera House and sailing under the Harbour Bridge gave us an interesting perspective as we contemplated walking over the span later the same day.

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Annoyingly, we had to take a chunk out of our day to check in online for our flight back to London. Online check in opens exactly 24 hours prior to scheduled departure time, and - for the longest flight of our lives - we wanted to have a decent selection of seats. We simply detest British Airways for not permitting seat selection at the time of booking unless you're prepared to pay $$$ more for the privilege. Our British Airways tickets alone for this trip are easily in excess of $10,000 but you'll be pleased to know that we still haven't managed to qualify for British Airways' loyalty scheme. But of course they don't tell you that your flights won't qualify for membership in their elite club until AFTER you've paid for them.

Bitter, moi?

But I digress. Having secured the best seats we could hope for in cattle class, we strolled around the Rocks area for a few hours and before delivering ourselves to the Sydney Harbour Bridge offices at about 6pm on Thursday. More of a walk than a ‘climb’, this attraction has been open since 1998 after many years of persistence by its visionary creator who had to convince the authorities that it was possible to take complete novices over the span of the bridge without harm to participants, bridge users or indeed the bridge itself. The result is an impressively well thought out system that ensures ‘climbers’ are securely attached to the bridge at all times.

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You can see some 'climbers' on the top of the span, on the left hand side

The preparation for the bridge ‘climb’ takes close to an hour. First, you predictably sign responsibility for your life away while simultaneously being breathalized to ensure sobriety. Once dressed in the official jumpsuit uniform, every participant is searched (with a metal detector) to ensure that no unauthorized items are taken onto the bridge. Then, every conceivable item you could possibly need during the ‘climb’ is issued and physically attached to your uniform jumpsuit. For example, attached to my devilishly stylish grey and blue jumpsuit was: hair bungy, baseball cap, fleece cap, glasses cable, hanky, and head lamp. We felt like we were preparing for a week-long mountaineering expedition!

Finally, we had brief training on use of the ball and chain that would ensure we were attached to the bridge at all times. It’s based on a system designed for a blind solo yachtsman and consists of a four inch diameter ball that slides onto a waist-height cable allowing movement in any direction (where there is a cable walkway). For the bridge ‘climb’, cables have been installed over the full length of the bridge route, so once you slide onto the cable at the very start, you are attached for every moment. I suspect the systems greatest advantage is the psychological security it gives to participants. And it does make you feel very comfortable. But I couldn’t help wondering (especially as we trekked over the walkway at the very top of the bridge that connects the two spans) if the system would indeed support the weight of ten adults if in some freak accident we were knocked out of the walkways.

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Finally, it was time to get going! Compared to bungy jumping and paragliding, we were expecting the Bridge ‘Climb’ to be a fairly relaxing experience, and for the most part this was true. Once you are actually on top of the span, you feel very safe: the walkway is right in the middle of the span roof which is about ten feet wide, so you can’t look over the edge with any ease. You do, however, have stunning views of the Opera House and Harbour, and indeed the city of Sydney in all directions. Having booked the twilight ‘climb’, we were soaked in the sun’s last golden rays on one side of the bridge, and slowly embraced in darkness as we came down the other side. Simply awesome!

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Obviously, it wasn't THAT bad! The Harbour Bridge Climb staff thought our picture would be a strong candidate for their 'Best Picture of the Year' competition...

The only moments of suspense were getting up on top of the bridge span, and then getting off it. That required walking on two-plank wide, narrow walkways where you had a very clear and immediate view of the distance between you and the ground below you. Even worse, we had to climb multiple sets of steep and narrow stairs originally designed only for maintenance crew to get up onto the span. So – interestingly – the time spent on top of the bridge was actually the most relaxing. The rest of the time I could move only by looking straight ahead and feeling out my next step with my toes. Lloyd, as always, did a great job of supporting me through my tall, mechanical object phobia, but was himself startled when – during the later stages of our ‘climb’ – a train passed beneath us, shaking the bridge enough to stop us both in our tracks.

Anyway, if you’re planning a visit to Sydney, you should plan on ‘climbing’ the bridge. It was a great experience, with fantastic views and just enough adrenaline-fueled moments to keep it lively. Don’t miss it.

Posted by jacquiedro 08:16 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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