Here there be Pirates

This week we’re in Northumberland*, in a holiday cottage on the coast. Very scenic, very relaxing and very isolated. (* We’re not really in Northumberland. I had been planning to post in real-time from here, but after arriving, I discovered there is no mobile phone signal or Internet connection so these posts are going to have to go up after I return home.)

The drive up took about eight hours, but that, in itself, was part of the holiday. The scenery along the west coast is stunning and, being in no hurry, it was a relaxing day. We arrived in Alnwick (pronounced AN’ ick) about 2 PM and, being an hour early for check-in, decided to stop there for a nose around.

Our first realization that we were in The North came while doing a bit of shopping at the local Morrisons. One of the things I like about England is the laid back nature of life in general, but I’m from The South, where people are taciturn and enjoy getting their weekly shopping done in peace and unimpeded. Up here, however, the supermarket seems to be a grand place to catch up with your friends, hold lengthy, group conversations in the middle of the aisles, or just go for a languid and, oh so very slow, stroll around the produce section. We, being rude southerners, could barely contain our impatience and had to rudely say, “Excuse me,” several times so we could squeeze by to get at the fruit juice.

I was surprised to discover that at least some of the Alnwickians are pirates—or maybe they were just preparing for <a href="http://www.yarr.org.uk/
\”>International Speak Like A Pirate Day—but later, on the telly, the news reports confirmed that pirates still operate in the waters off these coasts. Shiver me timbers!

Pirates! Avast me beauty; prepare to be boarded!
Alnwick town center.
Alnwick is a picturesque market town and the day we were there was uncharacteristically lovely. We found out later that it has been raining and grey for weeks and we happened to arrive on the first nice day in a long time. So far, so good.

We wandered around a while, scoped out the gardens and castle for possible, future activities and headed even further north to the tiny village of Craster and our holiday cottage.

Dunstanburgh Castle, as seen from our bedroom window.
Renting holiday cottages is one of the best things about living in Britain. For a surprisingly reasonable fee you can rent a self-catering cottage (in case that doesn’t translate into US English, “self-catering” means it has a full kitchen) in the most beautiful locations. (And if you can’t afford the reasonable fee, you can always go to the Holiday Park down the road, but you don’t get the fireplace, the Juliet balcony in the bedroom and herfing deck out back.)

View from the Herfing Deck.
This cottage is, without question, the most well-appointed we have ever stayed in. They have all been comfortable and filled with ample dishes, flatware and cooking implements, but they are usually mismatched, camping-quality items, which is what I would expect. This cottage, however, has full, quality sets of dishes, cooking paraphernalia and flatware. The kitchen also has a stone-tiled floor, a Belfast sink and a four-slice toaster, so I think we’ll be happy here for the next week.

Even though it had already been a full day, after settling in we took a stroll around the village to reconnoitre the local castle and enjoy the sea views. The area is lousy with castles; it seems every town has one. Some were built by William the Conqueror but this area needed a surplus to keep those pesky Scots in line and protect the locals from periodic Viking raids.

It’s dusk now, and I’m on the herfing deck with a cigar and a beverage watching the ocean. It’s remarkably soothing; I think I could sit here all week watching it roll back and forth in its hypnotic rhythm. I need to get one of these in my back garden; but only if I can find one without pirates.