Have Bag, Will Travel
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Category Archives: Beaches
After a second night demolishing the Premier Inn in Beverley and the children had caught up on their e-mails we had to clear out and make plans for going back home to Grimsby.
Fearing for the house and not wanting to get back too soon I thought that we might take a detour through UK Capital of Culture – The City of Hull and specifically an area of the city that has been reinvented for the occasion as the Old Town and more specifically, the Museum Quarter.
Odd, isn’t it? I have no trouble with Madrid or Prague, Rome or Lisbon having an Old Town or Museum quarter but I find it difficult to get my head around this in nearby Hull.
It was rather a surprise to most people when Hull became UK Capital of Culture because it has to be said that it great swathes of it are a bit of a dump and the journey in along the A1079, the Beverley Road, did nothing to alter this opinion, it is a dreadful approach to the city, through run down streets of decrepit shops, cheap mini-markets, tattoo parlours, dodgy finance places and betting shops, not the sort of place that anyone would like to spend too much time without a bodyguard that’s for sure.
Anyway, we made it to the Old Town and after a bit of difficulty found a parking spot and made our way to the Museum, which by contrast is all rather nice.
I have to say that my expectations were low but once inside I quickly had to reassess my uninformed predictions. Entrance is free and within five minutes I was open mouthed with respect for this Municipal Museum.
Three Museums actually.
We started in the Street Life Museum which recreates city life in the early twentieth century with buses and trains which amused the children and old fashioned shops that I remembered well enough but left my grandchildren unimpressed.
Upstairs we moved back two hundred years and there were carriages and recreations which I liked but scared some of the children. There was a street scene which included a wheelwright workshop and that interested me because my great-great grandfather , Thomas Insley of Shackerstone in Leicestershire was a wheelwright and carriage maker just about one hundred years ago before his business went bust with the advent of the motor car.
At the very top of the building was a view over the River Hull and the previous site of the industrious city docks, all gone now of course but once this was one of the busiest fishing ports in England, a status only disputed by nearby Grimsby. Rather sad now, no fishing, no ships just crumbling piers and rotting lichen covered timbers which will soon give in to the inevitable and fall into the muddy water and simply disappear.
I spoke briefly to a visitor from the south of England who seemed genuinely surprised by the history of the city. I told him the story that Hull was allegedly the most bombed city in World-War-Two, this was because that despite a blackout no German Bomber crew could hardly miss the River Humber and also because having reached the English coast many crews lost their nerve to carry on, declared an imaginary aircraft fault and simply discharged their bombs on the first available target and just went home.
After the Street Life Museum we moved on to the History Museum but by this time the children were beginning to run out of patience so we rather dashed through the history of the area from the Iron Age to the Medieval and after an hour or so as I became increasingly conscious of their lack of attention we moved on.
We missed out the William Wilberforce Museum and the history of the abolition of slavery and I thought I might do that another day by myself.
So we left the Old Town of Hull and made our way back south for the return journey to Lincolnshire on the opposite side of the Humber and crossed the estuary over the suspension bridge.
At a little over two thousand, two hundred metres the Humber Suspension Bridge is the seventh largest of its type in the World. This statistic used to be even more impressive because when it was first opened in 1981 it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the World for the next sixteen years and the distance by road between Hull and Grimsby was reduced by nearly fifty miles as a consequence of the construction.
For the record, the longest single span suspension bridge is currently the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge in Japan.
Eventually we left the visitor area and made for the toll booths and crossed the river and then made our way back to Grimsby past the port of Immingham to the north which handles the largest quantity of goods by weight in the UK and by day is an untidy, grimy sort of place dominated by ugly petro-chemical works and soulless grey industrial buildings but by night is transformed into a glittering Manhattan skyline of tall buildings and bright lights and occasional dancing plumes of flames burning off excess gases which actually makes it all look rather attractive.
Over the last two days we had done our best to demolish the Premier Inn Hotel in Beverley and the Museums in Hull now it was the turn of my house to take the strain!
February school half-term and I had a visit from the grandchildren to plan for which can be a stressful experience as generally when they visit they spend a week dismantling and redecorating the house and trashing the garden .
As always I made some preparations but this is rather like building the Maginot Line, a good idea, very expensive but ultimately useless!
Since 2011 I have lived in the east coast town of Grimsby and every so when they visit it is my job to arrange entertainment. This can be a challenge because to be honest and I don’t think I am being unfair here there just isn’t a great deal to do in Grimsby.
I like the town but it has to be said that it is an odd place. It is a community in decline. On the south bank of the Humber Estuary it is so far east that the only place to go after this is the North Sea and there aren’t any ferries to Europe as there are in Hull on the north side of the river. It is a dead end. It is a place that you only go to by choice. No one visits Grimsby by accident. You cannot stumble upon it while taking a leisurely drive along the coast as say in Northumberland or East Anglia. It can never be an unexpected discovery. You don’t go to Grimsby unless you are going to Grimsby!
This half-term I decided to find a reasonably priced hotel and let them trash someone else’s place instead. Unfortunately for the Premier Inn Company I chose their hotel in Beverley in Yorkshire just a few miles north of Hull, the UK Capital of Culture for 2017.
We arrived late on Monday afternoon and proceeded immediately to take the place apart – I was sure that the police would arrive at any minute in a blitz of flashing blue lights and screeching sirens to take us away. Within minutes it looked like Belgium after the German army had driven through in 1940 on the way to France. But all was not lost and eventually they calmed down and we went for evening meal in the dining room which we managed to leave an hour or so later without completely destroying the place.
Next day it was a lovely late Winter morning and after breakfast I made a decision that it was worth making a short journey to the coast to the North Sea town of Hornsea. It took us about thirty minutes to drive there.
On arrival I was immediately impressed. I live near the resort town of Cleethorpes but although it is a popular holiday resort it has to be said that it is just a muddy estuary where the sea is barely visible for long periods of the day but this was real North Sea coast with a raging sea, barnacled groynes, pounding surf, churning water and a pebble beach clattering away as it was constantly rearranged by the tidal surge.
I liked it but the children liked it even more and once down on the beach they made a run for the sea. I called after them to stop but it was hopeless, shouting into a wind that just carried my instructions away back towards the promenade and they charged like the Light Brigade towards the water.
Inevitably they fell in. William first and then Patsy, Molly managed to stay vertical but still got soaked by the waves. I had no change of clothing of course (a lesson learned there) so after I had dragged them from the sea we had to walk a while and let the stiff wind blow the moisture from their clothes. Marks out of 10 for Granddad – ZERO.
I liked Hornsea, a seaside town off the main visitor route, rather inaccessible and certainly not on any main tourist trail. I would absolutely go back there again, maybe even for a weekend break (no children).
Wet through we returned to Beverley to the Premier Inn where we changed and showered and then simply enjoyed the room. None of the children were enthusiastic about visiting the town centre and I wasn’t going to argue with them on that point because being around shops can be another challenge so we wasted the afternoon away as we prepared for a second night in the dining room and a plan to spoil everyone else’s evening!
““Do you like that?” I’ll say in surprise since it doesn’t seem like her type of thing, and she’ll look at me as if I’m mad. That!?” She’ll say, “No, it’s hideous” “Then why on earth,” I always want to say, “did you walk all the way over there to touch it?” but of course…I have learned to say nothing when shopping because no matter what you say… it doesn’t pay, so I say nothing.” Bill Bryson – ‘Notes From a Small Island’
It was our final day at my sister’s place on the east coast of Spain and it looked very much as though the sun was going to make a reappearance so after breakfast we drove south into the Province of Murcia, the Costa Calida and the resort town of Lo Pagán.
On the way we drove past salt water lagoons, separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land and now a site of carefully managed and intensive salt extraction. It turns out that this is the biggest and most important site for sea salt production in all of Europe. I didn’t know that! The flamingos did and there were flocks of hem paddling about in the shallow water and expertly fishing for salt water shrimps!
It reminded me of what else Spain is famous for (other than flamenco, bullfighting and El Cid).
First of all olives because Spain is the world’s leading producer of olives and is by a long way the country with the highest number of olive trees (more than three hundred million) and nowadays the world’s leading olive and olive oil producer and exporter and the world’s leading producer of table olives, which explains why cafés and bars are always so generous with a plate of olives to accompany every drink.
Next – Serrano Ham because go to Extemadura in the west and you will drive through fields of grazing Black Iberian Pigs gorging themselves on acorns in preparation for being turned into the Spanish gastro specialty, Jamón ibérico. Iberian ham products are processed throughout Extremadura, making this region the country’s leading producer and in a sparsely populated region about a million hectares of open range are used by over one thousand-five hundred livestock breeders.
One of the fascinating things about the world’s great food it seems is the way they are a product of geography and Spain is a classic example, salt from the Mediterranean, Olives from the sun baked plains of Andalucia, Jamón ibérico from Extremadura and Rioja wine from the vinyards of the north.
I didn’t know what to expect of Lo Lo Pagán, would it be stylish like Alicante or utilitarian like Torrevieja? As it turned out it was somewhere between the two, leaning towards Alicante I would say. We stopped for a beer as the sun burned through the thinning cloud and then walked along a causeway which extended a mile or so into the lagoon. It was a lovely walk in the weak sunshine with statuesque flamingos on one side and see-sawing fishing boats on the other. At the end of the causeway there was a pumping windmill, idle today, but nothing else except an opportunity to look out to sea before turning around and walking all the way back.
The weather was good and I was almost tempted to suggest a swim in the sea but I could tell that no one else would be terribly enthusiastic about that so I said nothing and we returned to the car and drove to a shopping centre at La Zenia.
I am not a big fan of shopping as you know and fortunately neither is Mick so we left Kim and Lindsay to browse the shops and we went for a beer and a bocadillo!
In the late afternoon it started to rain, just a little drizzle, but we didn’t mind it was our last afternoon and evening and next morning we would be returning to English drizzle anyway.
It had been a good few days in Spain especially because I was able to confront some of my prejudices about the Levante region of Spain. I have to say that it is unlikely ever to become my favourite but I was able to scrape away at the surface of ex-pat life and appreciate some of the heritage and history of the region and I look forward to going back again!