Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Tall ships, traditional folk dancing and raptors

We love Northumberland :) Might live here one day, it's so beautiful, and is full of beautiful people :) You know how, when you walk down the street in some towns and cities, no-one smiles when they catch your eye? It's like that in Lancaster too, very often. But up here, in Alnwick, and all these places round about, everyone smiles when you catch their eye. Lots of people say nice things in the street when they pass by. When we were in Alnmouth yesterday for our tea, I paused to take a photo of the view of the coast, and a man, who was just walking past and about to get into a white van, stopped to say to me 'it's a beautiful view isn't it?', then he smiled and carried on about his business. Gorgeous people :) Suits me fine, because I always smile when I catch someone's eye - that vacant look of indifference that my smile is usually met with is often like a slap in the face, but I haven't received a single face-slap since we arrived in the North-East! Lovely service in shops, and in restaurants/pubs, by absolutely everyone that you have to interface with.

And there's so much to do around here. Admittedly most of the really good stuff costs a little bit to get into, so the touristy things can't really be done for free. But nothing is expensive, and everything is excellent value. There is plenty of free stuff of course, because the beaches here are just stunning! Bamburgh is particularly amazing. We're holding out for a very nice day to go to Bamburgh, because beaches, although still good fun in the rain, are not places to spend a whole day on when it's wet and wild. But Alnmouth is just down the road from here, so it's handy to pop along to the coast for a walk for a bit. It's also got beautiful beaches, and lovely places to have food, and is just a very tranquil place. We had a little paddle there before tea yesterday, and I spent some quality time by myself (the kids were actually with me, but I was just ignoring them), lying on a bench and staring up at the clouds.

We've made ourselves a rough list of the things we want to do while we're here, and we're ticking them off. There's some rain, but nothing awful, nothing to keep us in the house all day.
Waterproofs were a good investment last week :) The boys are shattered because they're not used to being forced to do something fun every single day!! They're enjoying themselves, but there's quite a lot of bickering going on, and this weird thing happens every time they sit down in the car - they suddenly become very deaf and have to shout at each other, which is giving me headaches, lol. Testing my patience, as I'm the driver! But we've had a restful day today, and they've gone to sleep pretty early, so we should be rejuvenated tomorrow :)

Our first big trip out was to Hartlepool, to the Tall Ships festival. These ships are on a race around the North Sea, and Hartlepool was the finishing point. Well, I just want to be a sailor now - but not now, no, I want to be a sailor two hundred years ago! Tall ships are beautiful, they're inspiring, they're romantic, they're day-dreamy, and I want one. I took loads of pictures, but they're mostly of rigging and masts - I didn't want to bore you with them, so here's just one. This ship, the Christian Radich, was the one that I got the best picture of because it was the only one that I could fit into the frame properly!
The biggest one was the Trincomalee, which is permanently in port at Hartlepool (she's almost 200 years old), and I loved her and wanted to spend a bit of time sitting on deck and daydreaming, but the boys were not quite as impressed as I was - they were impressed, just not enough to want to stay on it when there was a play area right next to it :) My little laddies were super all day though - Thomas and James walked miles, because I had to drag them round the marina to find a cash machine! Then we had to go all the way back around the marina to the actual festival - they must be getting quite used to walking long distances now because I did not have one single word of complaint from them :D They slept well that night though! It was a really, really excellent day at Hartlepool - what a fantastically well organised festival. The park and ride was easy peasy, we didn't have difficulty in finding our way to anything. And I must just tell you that the portaloos were the most impressive portaloos I've ever seen! Seriously! They were clean! Yes, they were! And some blokes were going round the whole time cleaning them! That was easily the most impressive bit of the day.

Here we have a troupe of dancers from Poland - these dancers were children, I guess from about eight upwards. They were wonderful. We just wandered into town on our first day here, and stumbled upon this market square that was full of seating and this stage. It was lovely, and I kept fighting back tears for some strange reason - I think I was a little overwhelmed with the loveliness of it all. The first group we saw were Dutch, and they were a troupe of more mature ladies and gentlemen (pensioners :D) - they were the ones that had me crying the most, they were just so full of energy and having the time of their lives, it was fantastic. They were singing along to the music, and of course, we couldn't tell a word they were saying, but that didn't matter at all because it was still beautiful to listen to. All three of our boys were mesmerized, and again, not a word of complaint from them about being bored :)

Today we went to the Barn at Beal. It's a lovely little gem of a place, that we visited last time we were over here, a little bird sanctuary. And similarly, like last time, the birds were not able to fly for us properly because of the rain! But we were still able to see them for a little bit - the handlers allowed everyone to have a hold of one or two birds. James showed us that he is just not shy anymore, as he was the first volunteer that the lady asked for and he didn't hesitate to say yes :) In the photo is James with a Harris Hawk. He also held a long-eared owl, and another owl that I can't remember the name of. Dude :)

Mmm, lovely. It's very beautiful here, and I wish that we could stay for a month. The house we're staying in is wonderful - it's better than our house! The boys will not be wanting to go home at the end of next week, and neither will we. Here feels like home :) (Maybe it's just because the house was spotlessly clean and tidy when we arrived - still is actually!)

We're off to Beamish tomorrow.

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