Day Trip

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Sometimes you have years that just slope by lazily, without much changing from one end to the next. Then you get those years where your life feels unrecognisable from the point that the bells struck midnight at the start, to the point where you tuck into the Christmas tree chocolates at the end. This has without a doubt been one of those years for me, in fact it’s been the biggest year of my entire life. On the first day of 2014 I woke up in Panama City. I was half way through 6 months of backpacking, starting in South America and taking in 16 countries through Central America up to the USA. I’d already seen and experienced so much; but felt like I still had so much left to go. Due to being on the opposite side of the world as the year started, I had no idea how the rest of it would unfold. Where I’d be living, what job I’d have or what my life would look like in any way. I certainly had NO idea I’d be planning a wedding! Being a total control freak; the concept of having so little idea or handle on my future is something that would have used to terrify my. But that’s what I mean when I say it’s been the biggest year of my life; travelling taught me so much about my personality and boundaries and lifestyle that basically meant I came back a different (better!) version of me.

Anyway! I could ramble on about my ~feelings~ and ~journey~ for hours but I’m guessing anyone reading this is doing it through a Baileys or mulled-something haze (if not, why not?) so I’m going to keep it simple, and just list some of the big events of this year that I most likely failed to blog about as I have been way more active over on our travel blog Twentysomething Burnouts. I’ll try and keep them in chronological order!

Why are you calling me Beyonce? I said FIANCEE!

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On the 25th January, not long into the shiny new year, Nick asked me to marry him (read all about it). We were enjoying a couple of weeks holiday from travelling (I know, how sickening) on the Corn Islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We’d had a lovely meal, then strolled to a secluded beach that we had visited earlier in the day. It was just as beautiful at night. The air was balmy, the sea smelt incredible, and we sat snuggled up doing some star gazing. And then… it happened! Although it’s obviously something we had nattered about here and there, I had rationalised that there was no way Nick could bring a ring with him, so in my head I had completely parked the idea of any proposal speculation. It’s the first time in my life I have been fully speechless (until I yelled YES!) He couldn’t have asked at a more perfect time in our lives and trip. Having spent every minute of every day for the 4 months prior; and supporting each other through close-encounters with scorpions, death defying boat rides, teeny tin-can aeroplanes and 32 hour bus journeys with no air con OR toilets… we certainly knew each other well enough to be confident we can take on anything else in our forever future. We get married in September 2015 and so far I’ve done a bit of planning… and a LOT of obsessively watching Don’t Tell The Bride as research.

A friendly face in deepest, darkest Guatemala

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If I started writing about every highlight of our travels, it would go on for a hundred years and basically be Twentysomething Burnouts. If I started writing about every highlight with a certain Craig Heathcote in 2014, it would also go on for a hundred years. Therefore I will try to keep this section short and sweet! When we had initially announced our travel plans we had tons of people say they’d come out and see us at various points. Obviously then things like real life, work, holiday allowance and penny pinching get in the way; but despite all of those things Craig stuck to his guns and managed to wrangle over a week to join us out in the midst of Guatemala, a place I doubt would have been on his top holiday locations otherwise (to put it in context his mum kept asking, “Where are you going again? Guantanamo?” !)

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By the time February rolled around, I have to be honest and admit that we were slightly waning. We had been travelling at absolute breakneck speed in order to see all of Latin America in a tiny space of time; and sticking mostly to overland travel. Two detours had held us up; the first being an excursion to the Galapagas (yay), the second being Nick’s terrifying back injury in Colombia so as we trucked through into Central America we were racing against time to get to Guatemala in time for our date with a VIP. We hadn’t had basics like hot water for 5 months. We were SHARING a pair of socks. We had gone a month without soap. Everything we were carrying around stank, had holes in it and was bleached with too much DEET contact. We were obviously still loving our adventure, but were fraying around the edges and this meant that Craig’s arrival was exactly what we needed! He arrived with a giant My Little Pony tote bag (soz Craig) that my sister and he had packed full of clean clothes, British treats and stuff to make us smell better. He had magical things like new music – we had been sharing 2 ipods with a total of about 80 songs for months. He had new news from home, updates on all our friends and just a totally different outlook on life. It was so special! You can read all about our actual adventures here and here. Those 10 days are an absolute highlight of our entire trip. Big beers, breath-taking views and places that constantly 1-up’ed each other, wild swimming, late night jungle nattering and being zoomed about in the back of a 4×4. Oh and the time a monkey threw a rock at Craig’s head (and luckily missed!)

Here we go again London

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We were moving to Brighton, then we weren’t. We were done with London, then we weren’t. I wrote all about it here and despite all my previous grumbles with life in the big smoke, I’ve had such a fantastic time since moving back and am so happy that a few twists and turns of fate bought us back here… for now!

It’s my job to read books!

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On the night we landed back in England, I couldn’t sleep. I had a serious case of reverse culture-shock, and a bigger case of jet lagging. Despite the fact I’d planned to avoid any semblance of job hunting for a few weeks of family time, it was 3am and I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d just take a peek at the jobs on the market. I am so happy I did, because it’s then that I spotted the job advert for a role doing digital and social media bits at Penguin Random House; so after 6 months of not working or even thinking about work I had to attempt to pull together a convincing cover letter and update my CV. As a lifelong bookworm, it’s my dream job. I’m so lucky to work with so many inspiring people and just felt at home from my first day, it’s a very special company indeed and whilst there are challenging moments, it’s made life after travelling a lot easier to stomach. Plus, overtime is… reading! Who can complain about that?

Craigfest

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We had only been home for a month or so when our Craig turned 30! And luckily for all his friends, he did it in serious style. We rented out a beautiful venue in Dorset (um I think…my southern geography is so dire) for a couple of nights. There were bands (including Chime Hours), dancing, ping pong, walks in the beautiful grounds, bonfire, marshmallow toasting and all bunking down in dorms with lots of chattering late into the night/morning. And not even the British weather could dampen the party!

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Not such a Twentysomething Burnout anymore

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I turned 30 in May, officially hanging up my right to call myself a twentysomething burnout. I wrote about it here da da DAAAAAAA, but have come to the conclusion that the hype, fear and build up to 30 is so much worse than actually being 30 itself. In fact being 30 is absolutely no different to being 29, funnily enough! I was a total spoilt brat and milked my birthday for months. I am lucky enough that my eldest sibling Meg is my decade twin, and turned 40 this year. This meant we could throw a party for all of our friends, which Meg masterminded and did all the hard work on whilst I was still backpacking about; an amazing present in itself. The party was 80s Vs 90s movie themed… which sounds niche but it was amazing how inventive our lovely guests were. We had Ghostbusters… The Craft witches, Blue Brothers, Tank Girl, Marty McFly, Edward Scissorhands, THE TITANIC (!), Indiana Jones, When Harry Met Sally, Alien, Leon, Addams Family, Waynes World…. so many more. Meg and I took it in turns on our playlist with an hour of 80s, then an hour of 90s, and back again. I felt so fortunate to all my amazing friends who travelled from up and down the country to croon along to en vogue. The night ended strictly at 1am when the venue turned off the PA. But would we stop partying? No! And so my fondest memory is everyone insisting on screeching their own 90s hits super loudly until we were politely asked to leave… singing “this could be a case for Mald-ah and Scah-lly” at the top of our voices.

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Nick indulged (without TOO much persuasion) my wish to go as Sarah and the Goblin King from Labyrinth, my all time favourite childhood movie. I bought an 80s wedding dress from eBay and he ordered a “Sam Fox” wig from Amazon. He even did an amazing hypnotic dance with the crystal ball in front of everyone. I think he really embraced a bit of Bowie! A super special memory from this year was that after the party we were staying at Meg & Eds, which was just a 15 minutes walk down the river from the venue. Having had a few G&Ts, I decided we may as well just walk despite the time. So I walked in my full on HUGE wedding dress, holding 10 helium silver star balloons, through central London at 1am. Everyone we passed obviously thought we had just got married (I really hope Nick doesn’t take that as a hint to don his Goblin King costume at the wedding for real) and we had people shouting congratulations, asking to take photos and taxis beeping their horns. It was a balmy night, and town seemed to be full of just friendly, well wishing passer bys.

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Yorkshire Day

In the summer I had some holiday days to use up which coincided with YORKSHIRE DAY, the most wonderful day of the year! It was a great excuse to head up north and spend a week quality time with Lol, which I never get to do. We did lots of dancing, watching Ru Pauls Drag race, perfecting or telepathicness to the point of being too lazy to talk out loud, running round giant Asda, making nachos, eating nachos and gallivanting around the moors in the rain.

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End of Cougar Season

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In November Nick caught me up and turned 30. We went to Paris for a long weekend of real animals and skeleton animals (and eating lots of cheese) you can read about it over here and here. I also went on lovely trips to Exmoor, Sweden and Ghent, so haven’t really had too much time to get the post travel blues.

I am still stupid at 30

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Just so this isn’t a boring blog of humble brag-ish boasting (ugh I hope not) I am still monumentally bad at functioning in life. I have had 2 trips to A&E this year, an infected horsefly bite oh… and lets not forget the time I managed to drop a pint glass on my eye from a great height – I was bending down snuffling about in the fridge and knocked it off the side straight onto my eyeball. Cue black eye for a week that gradually turned into a purple eye, a green eye and then a yellow eye.

This has been such a lovely post to write, it’s been so fun reliving the best bits and remembering just how crazy this year has been. I’ve focussed on the ups here, because they are the nice bits to re-live rather than being a moaning minnie. However that isn’t to say there haven’t been downs. It’s been a really hard year in a lot of ways. My battle with the ombudsman over my messed up surgery in 2012 has cast a shadow, as has the fact I will need surgery again (wah) and the pain I still have pretty much most days on some level. A lot of my friends have had tough years and it hurts me to watch the people I love go through rough stuff; even though they are all handling it in really inspiring, impressive ways and it’s usually me wailing away rather than them! I guess this is just to acknowledge the fact that whilst the year on the surface can look pretty perfect, it’s definitely been a huge learning curve in so many ways and I’ve been trying really hard to get better at coping with my anxiety and being a worry wart. Thanks for reading the blog this year, and whilst I haven’t updated as much as I’d like, I can’t wait to tap away over the Christmas break some more.

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Happy New Year!

Yesterday Nick & I toasted goodbye to a crummy 2012 with a very uncrummy New Years Eve. We were home alone (rare and precious in itself) and the night consisted of the deepest bath with Matey pirate bubbles, a huge bowl of nachos with my homemade green chilli salsa, a Moon & Moonrise kingdom double bill and Moscow gin mules that turned into whiskey mules when we discovered we’d finished off the gin ages ago and it was an empty giant Gordons bottle I’d been too lazy/ashamed to recycle. I woke up this morning to the sun streaming in and pulled on my leopard print Pat Butcher coat and tottered off across North London to be reunited with my magic third Ali (dedicated blog readers may remember her from adventures such as this & this), who has abandoned me and Craig to live in Winnipeg, Canada where she is taking the art world by storm. It’s great for her but less great for us, as Magic 2 just doesn’t have the same ring to it however hard we try. So far 2013 is already massively telling 2012 to jog on!

Anyway where was I..? I can’t really get on with this year before finishing off my big re-cap of the past year, and talking of magic 3 day trips, that segues nicely into summer…

July

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As all UK-dwellers know, the summer was absolutely rubbish weather-wise. I heaved out all my garish printed sun dresses and strappy tops, only to shiver away in anything less than at least a cardi and jeans combo and eventually admit defeat and sullenly packing them all away again in October mostly unworn. However in true magical style Craig & I plucked a day at random and got super lucky as the storm clouds dissolved and gave us a jolly seaside jaunt. This year we headed to escaped to Reculver. In classic us-style (eg similar scrape to getting stuck on the London eye) our hire car was great on the motorway, but less great at er, reversing. In fact it could NOT reverse. We didn’t imagine this to be a problem as we figured we could just park in spaces you could pull forward out of etc. Then we arrived somewhere near Reculver, near enough to see the famous fort mocking us from a distance, so came off the motorway and  started driving along winding rural roads and narrowing paths. Eventually we drove down a dirt farm path for about quarter of a mile before hitting a locked gate. On one side of the path was a sheer drop and the other… the motorway hidden by a few brambles. We had no phone signal, it was pouring with rain and we honestly thought we were going to have to abandon the car and spend the day grovelling to Zipcar. Luckily though with a huge tug the car eventually played nicely and went into reverse so we could gingerly inch back to a main road and back on adventure-track. It never would reverse again afterwards though so it was a miracle!

We pulled into Reculver, which was a lot smaller than we expected, and the rain was hammering down. Rushing into the local pub for shelter, we experienced one of the scariest welcoming committees ever. It was a bit like being in the League of Gentleman, as silence and staring descended amongst the ferocious locals propping the bar up and we were greeted by a waiter who would only sit us at a tiny table hidden in the back and kept rushing us to finish our cup of tea as the “lunchtime rush” was about to start (it was 2pm and there was about 30 tables reserved for this phantom rush already). The only inhabited table was being used by a woman so old that her wrinkles covered up most of her facial features and she spent the entire 20 terrified minutes we were in there glowering at me whilst drinking 2 large glasses of red wine. SO! Safe to say we scuttled out of there very quickly but luckily the storm had moved out to sea which looked phenomenal from dry land. The fort ruins are said to be haunted by the waling of a crying baby (despite reading endless Susan Hill this somehow still appealed to me!) but all we heard was the whistling wind that day. We strolled the beach and didn’t see a single other person, which was lovely and meant we could take some unashamed jumping photos with only a ghost baby to worry about looking silly in front of.

July

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After a few hours we decided to drive down the coast to Herne Bay where the sun blazed, the sea roared and we ate salt soaked chips on the pebbles. I would highly recommend a day trip there, as even the slightly ramshackle bandstand, ‘Eels on Wheels’ seafood stand and peeling pastel painted houses are very charming. We were sorry not to be staying overnight to take in the sights & sounds of the New York New York nightclub…! Added to the gorgeous stealth sunshine, another delight was catching a brass band on the bandstand. We were sat in candy striped deck chairs as they played classic numbers, eyes shut and dozey from the sea air, when all of a sudden they burst into the Jurassic Park theme! That was definitely one of my best moments of 2012.

August

August

The Olympics fortnight was the most exciting time I have ever experienced living in London. Living here is electric and exciting most of the time, but for the 2012 Olympic games it just crackled with energy and colour and positivity and everything you would wish for (and more!). I had tried and failed to get tickets for any sporting event, but to be honest without even stepping foot in the Olympic village I still feel like I had the best experience possible. For working days we had a huge TV set up with everyone gathered round shouting and clutching each other and bellowing when medals were won. For the rest, Hyde Park became my second home. I watched so many events on the huge screen there, including the photo above where Andy Murray won gold. The atmosphere was so happy and welcoming, even if the woodchip flooring did not agree with bare legs and long periods of sitting. I also attended the spine tingling closing ceremony where the sun shone and The Specials played, followed by a killer (could be their last ever) set by Blur and all day I was surrounded by my second family (Lol and her parents and her parents friends) plus Nick, plus Craig, as we pulled MoBots in every photograph. I went to see the torch be carried down Regents Street, I drank cider and cried my way during the opening ceremony, I wore official 2012 games sweatbands, I got ahead of the games and walked to work every day and I spotted athletes from almost every country. I’ll never regret living in London at that time, and how truly privileged I was to be a tiny part of it all. I’ve never been prouder to be British… or from Yorkshire as we clambered up the medals table.

September

September

In September I packed up my long abandoned wellies and headed to the  Larmer Tree Gardens in North Dorset for End of the Road festival. I haven’t been to a festival in the UK since the apocalyptic Worstival (Bestival) of 2008, instead opting for weather foolproof options such as Sonar. Nick and his family/friends are annual End of the Road attendees however and not wanting to miss out/be parted I decided to take the plunge and go. Luckily the weather was pretty solid, just a few splatters of rain and one unseasonally freezing chattery teeth tent nights sleep. I have been to lots of festivals (Leeds, Reading, V, Bestival, ATPx3, Latitude, Field Day, Wireless and loads more I probably drank too much smuggled in gin to remember) as I have been going to UK summer festivals since I was 14. However End of the Road definitely wins my prize for best fest. It was the perfect number of people,so felt intimate and you never had to queue for a (very clean) portaloo. The festival is set in beautiful woodlands, and has a real enchanted fairytale vibe. My favourite memories were dancing until 2am in the light-up dancefloor disco deep in the forest, eating the best pulled pork burrito of my life (actually 3 over the course of the festival), kissing Nick under the swaying fairylights, dressing as a cowgirl, the amazing line up with highlights of Grizzly Bear, The Antlers, Beach House, John Grant & First Aid Kit. Oh and the secret Futureheads a cappella gig.

October

October

Short & sweet as October basically didn’t happen for me, as I covered here in rubbishtober. If it wasn’t happening in a hospital, doctors surgery, operating theatre or my bedroom prison, then I wasn’t there. I still dressed up for Halloween though…

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November

November

I saw this on the day before I left my re-cooperating parents house in Yorkshire to head back to London and real post-op life. We were on our way to watch Skyfall, which was amazing, and for me to treat them to their first ever Nandos. I took it as a sign of great things to come and a fresh start, although to be honest I haven’t recovered as quickly as I expected. My operation was complicated and long and I still have struggles if I do quite standard things like lift a heavy bag or stand up too long or push myself too far too fast. My doctors think realistically it will be January 22nd before I am ‘recovered’ and realistically later until I am a robo-fixed-better version of myself. So November was a month of frustratingly taking it slow and steady to win the race.

December

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In December I could finally step up my game and enjoy some London festivities, such as Winter Wonderland where Nick & I supped mulled cider and scampered around the Magical Ice Kingdom of ice sculptures where they even had an ice SLIDE and an ice unicorn. We drank in the carousel bar, and ate piping hot churros, and above all – despite our final destination health year – we risked a go on the ice skating and didn’t fall over once! In fact we helped other people to not fall over.

Writing this has made me realise that there were hundreds of tiny glimmers of hope and fun this/last year even if it was tough going. I can’t even begin to write about them all or mention all the sparkly people involved, but I am a very lucky girl and cannot wait to get stuck into 2013. (And write about it more)

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As I mentioned, a few weeks ago the magic three daytrippers lost one point of our triangle of fun times. Ali has moved to Goteborg, Sweden and therefore any future day tripping will mostly likely take place… er there! So that will be fun. I hope I see a bear or a wolf (from a distance).

Anyway inbetween packing up her wordly possesions and learning how to say JAG er ny här bli trevlig till jag behaga (er, meant to be I’m new here please be nice to me; but upon closer inspection of my really terrible swedish means I’m fresh here be nice to self which might not encourage new friends!) we managed to squeeze in one last London based day trip.

First stop was the London Transport Museum. Now you might read that and think snoooooze, but this place is seriously amazing. Transport is trendy! As a Londoner you clock up on average seven hours a week at least hurtling around deep underground on the tube (and that’s if you have a sweet 30 minute commute like me) so how can you not be slightly curious by how this monsterous network of tunnels and trains came to exist. It’s not just the invention, you can learn all about transport used during the war, revolutions and trends in travel. And if engineering and industry is not your thing, then you can pretty much see every poster, map design and artwork used since 1800 and they are absolutely amazing. I think my favourite are Adrian Allisons work from the 1930s with posters like this. There is an incredible online database of artists and artwork here if you aren’t near Covent Garden for a visit in person.

That’s the museum, what I haven’t mentioned are the two best bits of any museum… the gift shop and the cafe of course! And London Transport Museum has top examples of both. The cafe is a tranquil retreat in the middle of bustling weekend central London, as it never seems overly busy.

The seats are upholstered in traditional London Underground fabric (the kind that really prickles your bum if you have a summer dress on, let me tell you) and has a really quaint little menu – including smoothies themed around the various tube lines. I think we all tried to stick stubbornly to our respective tube lines that we live on! And I very much enjoyed a District line limey apple affair. Where else in London can you buy marmite on crumpets either? It was the perfect afternoon snack to accompany Alis present giving ceremony!

The gift shop is a dangerous place as you could easily end up with more transport related items than you could physically fit in any home. From giant poster prints, to tube map covered crockery, to an entire sofa covered in the traditional tube seat ‘moquette’ – again in your preferred line (East London line for me. Orange and Brown tetric cubes!) And it was in this shop that we discovered the joy of naughty bus! The best childrens book in the history of the world. I instantly added it to my amazon wishlist which is slowly starting to consist of more childrens books than anything else. Oops. (Burglar Bill, Each Peach Pear Plum & The Bad-Tempered Ladybird are all on there too!)

My tube geekery is definitely on the up and I stumbled across this amazing blog Going Underground to add to my reader, which features the serious stuff (strikes, maintenace, grr!) but also lovely anectodes and sightings on the tube as well as events and things to look out for.

We then headed just a quick walk around the corner to Hope & Greenwood. I think Ali might miss this place more than me or Craig! We will have to definitely post her H&G goody bags to keep her spirits up.

They are definitely the original and the best old fashioned sweet stockist, and the entire shop is an experience in itself. The smells, the bunting, the tasters and the jar after jar of beautiful sweets. I absolutely adore all the packaging and tiny details that they put into making everything as authentic as possible.

Do not fear, Craig and I will continue our day trips and adventures so I have things to report back on, but it will be with a slightly heavy heart (and sore fingers and thumbs from texting Ali constantly while we do it!). She has left us in care of her KITE! So that is top of the list for an autumn antic once I’m back from holidaying.

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The city I grew up in is the furthest possible point away from any coastline  in the UK. When I was 10 they shipped in huge bags of sand and created a fake beach in the city centre, because they had done a survey and 72% of children had never been to the seaside.  For this reason the seaside has a totally enchanting, magical, amazing quality to it and I still get a swarm of butterflies the second I spot the ocean on the horizon as I travel towards it.

My friends Ali & Craig (aka 3 is the magic number) and I made a decision that we would go to one coastal resort per month this summer; to get out of grizzly London and explore and get sand in our sandwiches and salty air in our lungs. The first location we selected was …….. Eastbourne! 1. Because it was only £13 a ticket and 2. Because my dad was born/bred there and I was eager to explore his hometown. The train from London goes from Charing Cross and takes about 2 hours, with one change in a little resort called St Leonards Warrior Square which didn’t make the best impression since in the 20 minutes we spent on the tiny platform we witnessed a taped off police-crime-scene being guarded by armed officers, a scowling pregnant child and a man with a raging pitbull shouting at another man across the train tracks. The journey goes quickly enough though it you have a nice array of train snacks, good conversation and hang-man to fall back on.

As a result of a complete fluke, instead of the April showers and grey drizzle we’d expected when we booked in February, it was the hottest day of the year so far. Cardigans and coats were shed, sunglasses were out and we all came home with noticabley pink faces (oh so British!) I’ve bolded the other seaside cliches in the following post just to show how we ticked just about every box! Upon arrival we walked through Eastbourne town centre and picked up some rock at the Truley Scrumptious Olde Fashioned Sweet Shop and then jumped aboard an open top bus up to Beachy Head. It is a place of such breath-taking beauty but obviously there is the more sinister side which is unavoidable to ignore when you see the beautiful cliffs scattered with wooden crosses and fresh flowers. There is such a bittersweetness to how incredible the chalk cliffs and views are against the heart breaking sadness of the lives lost there. Luckily we saw no lone walkers or potential jumpers (just one crazy dad tourist getting a bit of a fright when he stepped out a bit too far) and I would recommend anyone to go here if they haven’t. It must be one of the most perfect areas of the UK. It was peaceful and serene and unusual and the haunting noise of the lighthouse carries through the air giving it a really dramatic ambiance. Photographs do not do it justice!

 

 

 

 

 

Back in Eastbourne we picked up Fish and Chips from Qualisea. You might know know how very seriously I take the business of f&c munching and these did not let me down! Fresh flakey haddock, crispy batter and the fact we could eat them on the pebbles, in tee shirts, with circling mutant seagulls (rather than huddling inside somewhere for warmth) made them all the more tasty. Then we played on the (rather sad old) pier, took touristy photographs in deck chairs wandered along the beach, got sand (and chalk) in our shoes, explored the band stand, then went for high tea in The Grand Hotel and slightly napped in the big comfy chairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We came home happy and burnt and full of sea air and happy thoughts.

Any recommendations for our next seaside jaunt are very welcome, as we are stuck and need to get booking…

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