“He stands in front of the mirror with a net, hoping to catch something.”

I decided to test out my driving skills again today – I decided I would go check out Bolton Abbey and the surrounding areas so I could take advantage of the nice weather and go for a good (and I hoped scenic) walk. I’ve not been feeling well these past few weeks so I was a little bit nervous venturing out on my first day of really feeling better, but I thought to myself that there was no contractual obligation to complete the whole walk I had planned, I could turn back at any time if I started feeling weak again.

Of course I didn’t really want to turn back.

I set off at noon and the drive was much shorter than that to the Yorkshire coast, yet managed to be 100 times more stressful. The roads were narrow, and busy, and there were a million cyclists out and about to try and overtake, or worse, cyclists on the other side of the road causing traffic that side to verge into my lane. There were also many pedestrians and bikers… basically everyone was out in all forms today. That, with the narrow roads, and my unfamiliarity of the route, meant I was soon talking back to my sat nav and muttering under my breath at various hazards…stress relief ;) In the end, the sat nav took me to a random farm so I had to turn around and find my own way for the last couple of meters which was also stressful, then I had to pay £10 (!!) entry, only for there to be no parking anyway, so I had to squeeze myself into the tiniest space ever and after recently crashing during parking, I was so nervous, and there were so many people around, passing around and behind my car making it so so difficult. It was horrible. But I felt pretty proud once I eventually got myself into the parking space, without crashing, and got the engine off.

I changed into my walking boots and slathered myself in sun cream then set off. From the car park, I wanted to head to the Valley of Desolation, then from there head onwards to the Barden Moor and finally, ascend Simons Seat. I started off well, the route was sign posted initially and busy. Eventually, as the signs petered out and the walk became less pedestrian, I missed the turning to the Valley of Desolation and had to circle back to get to it. It was worth it though, as the valley was beautiful. Despite its name, it’s actually a lush forest, and there were two waterfalls, one really quite impressive one. It was also blissfully cool and quiet in the forest. (Outside of the forest, I was melting. And probably burning despite the sun cream.) I took a million pictures and then completed my circle and set off again towards the moors. Unfortunately, I started to get tired, even though there was barely any ascent. I made it out of the forest and onto the moors and then the walk started to very slowly, very painfully, start to ascend and I could feel myself struggling. I felt so tired.

I stopped, then pushed on, then stopped again, had something to eat, then pushed on again. But eventually I had to admit I could go no further – I still needed energy to get back, and then to drive, and I just couldn’t keep pushing myself on like that. I was so annoyed. I was close enough to Simons Seat for it to be frustrating, but far enough that it wasn’t just a case of pushing forwards for a short while more. It would have been a long, painful slog to complete my journey.

I reluctantly turned back, and then my mood lifted when I stumbled upon a big group of Grouse. My only other encounter with Grouse, I thought I had gotten a video of them flying, only to find I had not pressed record. So then I lingered, taking many pictures and videos. Unfortunately I couldn’t get them flying, but I was still amazed at how close they were, and how photogenic they were being. I was holding back and being as still as I could, but they didn’t seem afraid at all. I was amazed by them, and their incredibly funny bird ‘song.’ They are fascinating creatures. I laughed at the way they would sit amongst the heather with just their heads visible. It really felt great – to have turned back from what I wanted, to find something possibly even better. I observed them for ages, following them down the road as they migrated from the heather into the bracken. Then I lost them. But after carrying on for a while I found another one. Finally, I carried on further down where I would encounter one more.

I walked back the way I had come, which wasn’t too boring, as I got to go past the waterfalls again. This time, I tried to climb to the top of the big waterfall and I got pretty close. It was quite exhilarating, if not a little scary! I got some interesting pictures though.

I made it back to the car park just as the ice cream parlour was closing, and therefore wasn’t accepting any more customers :( Then I drove home, which was still stressful, although the amount of cyclists and pedestrians had thankfully decreased. It was a good walk, I think. I am super disappointed I didn’t get to complete the whole walk, but on the plus side I did get to see the Valley of Desolation, I got to see the Grouse (which I probably wouldn’t have if I didn’t turn back when I did!), and I did walk a good 4.5 miles which is not bad when still, probably, a little sick.

I did realise though that I paid £10 and didn’t even use it to go see the Abbey itself! I’ll have to do so next time… I’m definitely going to have to go back and make it to Simons Seat then too.

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

Today I decided I was going to take a day trip to the Yorkshire Coast again. The difference this time was- I was going to drive it. I set off very early in the morning, grabbed a Starbucks, and then headed across to the coast. I had just a single high-speed road to take before a set of narrow, twisty country roads so it wasn’t beyond my abilities – that, and the roads were very quiet early on a Sunday morning. It was just very long.

Gannets
My trip started with a visit to the RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Context: The RSPB is the Royal Society of Birds. The Bempton Cliffs are a long stretch of sheer cliffs part of the Yorkshire coast which serve as a key nesting site for thousands of sea birds, many of them rare (especially in these parts) such as Puffins and Gannets. I have been wanting to go there for the longest time, because I want to see puffins (because who wouldn’t want to see Puffins.) Although the drive did get stressful on the approach to the cliffs, because of aforementioned twisty country roads, I got there OK and even managed to park OK. It was just past 10 when I had arrived, so the drive was just over an hour and a half. Bearable, especially with my excitement about the puffins to motivate me!

At the entrance to the nature reserve a very nice man from the RSPB talked me through my visit and what I could expect to see and he provided a helpful handout – for free no less – with detailed illustrations of the birds to help identify them.
I entered the reserve and began my walk along the cliffs, stopping at all the viewpoints to look for puffins. There were thousands of birds coating every available surface of the cliffs, sitting on the water and flying around the cliffs. (They were incredibly noisy too.) There were a lot of people there too, and I felt quite inadequate compared to the sheer number of them carrying all manners of binoculars, tripods, telescopes and DLSRs with what looked like a meter of lenses attached to them. A lot of people there were clearly Very Serious about birdwatching, and were planning to spend a long time at it. (I even spotted a man asleep, and snoring, on a bench and I imagined him spending his morning at a viewpoint, taking a noon nap before carrying on.) I felt a little sad when they could spot puffins and no matter how much I scanned with my camera on full zoom I just couldn’t. Looking for tiny little puffins among all those thousands of birds was a very strange, frustrating game of ‘Where’s Wally?’, with the picture far away and constantly shifting.

PUFFINS!!!
But, I did manage to see some puffins. Maybe not as many as I wanted/expected? But I was so close to the ones I did see which was absolutely amazing. I definitely agree with the RSPB information that they are slightly comical in looks, but I also found them incredibly cute. I could also see Gannets, Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls, Guillemots and Razorbills. (Basically all the birds listed on the sheet bar two!) I saw the very young, very fluffy babies of the gannets and kittiwakes, nestled in under a parent (Interestingly, and luckily, when I look over my photos I can zoom in and spot things I never picked up with my own eyes – an extra puffin, more babies. It’s pretty cool and I can see why most people were carrying about such heavy equipment – their photos must be incredible.) It was absolutely amazing and it would have been worth the drive just for that, but my day would get better.

My sister is in holiday in Scarborough with some girlfriends at the moment. So I asked her if I could crash their holiday for the day so I could see her- and she said yes :) I drove into Scarborough from the Bempton Cliffs, getting a little lost trying to find the car park I had chosen thanks to my GPS going wonky, but again just about managing it. I met my sister and her friends at a small, out of the way restaurant where we had food like hot sandwiches, burgers, chips, salad and nachos for lunch. It was all freshly made, very simple but flavorful and reasonably priced. 10/10. After a filling lunch we made our way to the beach, where we set ourselves up for the rest of the afternoon. I waded into the water with my sister for a bit, but then we both just lay down and chilled in the sun. Although the day had started out a bit grey, and I had started out wrapped up at the cliffs, it turned into a gloriously bright and sunny day and I was hot even after shedding all my extra layers.

It was really relaxing, lazing about in the sun with my sister and her friends, talking about nothing in particular and soaking in the warmth.

We then went into one of the arcades and wasted only a small amount of money playing the 2 pence a go games, then we did some quick souvenir shopping and headed back to the car. The walk back to the car was unfortunately uphill most of the way and I don’t think anyone was impressed with my choice of parking. :/

Although this was my first time taking passengers, thankfully the nerves about that didn’t get me too much and I drove everyone back safely to their accommodation. I pretty much dropped them off then set off back home. The drive back was way more tiring and I had to stop for some caffeine – even though it was late and I knew it would affect my sleep, I was getting worried for myself and my concentration. After getting a shot of caffeine in me I was OK for the rest of the drive. Thankfully the roads remained quiet and I got home in good time. I am interested to see how I will sleep tonight, if I will manage to wake up tomorrow morning, and how driving will be tomorrow… I’ve had a great day though and I’m feeling pretty proud for all the “driving firsts” I ticked off today, successfully.

Copenhagen Day 4/Hamburg Day 1

German ICE Train
Tuesday 11th October 2016, 21:48

I am now in Germany! I got a direct train from Copenhagen this morning and arrived four and a half hours later in Hamburg in the afternoon. I was a bit nervous about the journey before hand – I had been keeping an eye on the information boards at Copenhagen central station to see where/which platform the Hamburg train leaves, but I couldn’t see a Hamburg train at all. Thankfully I managed to get to the station early enough that I could ask at information. They confirmed my platform number, seat reservation and the directness of the train. Sure enough, Hamburg HBF was listed at that platform as the service after next. I waited around, munching on Danish pastries which tasted much the same, very disappointedly, as those you get in the UK, feeling quietly excited for the journey to come. As soon as the Hamburg train became the next I went to the platform, I got out my phone and readied to video the train coming in. I was so curious as to what German public transport was like.. the train came right on time. It was a fairly small train, but then it has to be I suppose as it has to fit on a ferry (wait for that), and there didn’t seem to be too many passengers. There was a mix of people travelling but most actually seemed Danish or German.

First Class Seat in German ICE Train

Inside the Train
I had treated myself to first class as it wasn’t more expensive than standard, so settled in to my spacious seat…after taking many pictures. I was so excited. And impressed. The train was spacious and clean and well aired and at a comfortable temperature. We got going and sped our way through Denmark down to Rodby, at which point the train was driven onto a ferry. I don’t know the logistics, but there is a compartment/section on the hull of the ferry with tracks, and somehow these are aligned to the tracks on land, they must be, as we drove slowly but surely into the hull of the ferry. There were trucks being driven in either side of us. It was so surreal and so freaking cool.

Disembarking from the train, some views from the Ferry
As soon as the train stopped we disembarked and climbed up to deck for the crossing. The ferry seemed huge. There was the hull with our train, and two columns of trucks either side, and what seemed to be two levels of cars above that. Then there was an indoors level with restaurants, shops (duty free even, but only about…I think it was 18 minutes into the journey? Clearly we had to pass into international waters first / beyond the authority of Danish maritime authorities) and seating areas, and then a top area divided into indoor and outdoor seating. Sadly it has been a gray, cloudy and damp day so the views were rather dreary and it was drizzling. I started to feel a little seasick, so overpaid for some coke and chips. I sat out on the deck in the rain, sipping coke and breathing in the cool air, tinged by diesel fumes and cigarette smoke, but clean enough and still better than indoors for my queasy stomach. I must have looked a little crazy sitting out in the rain but oh well. Soon enough we were called to embark. I didn’t waste any time and joined the small trail of people heading back to their cars and to the train. I managed to get some pictures of the train in the hull but as much as I was curious as to the logistics if it all I was wary of lingering, fairly certain there would be no headcount. There was none. The train started up and was driven off the ferry in about five minutes after we were called. There were trainspotters watching us coming us off the ferry and I badly wanted to see what they saw. I don’t really understand how DB Bahn was pulling this off. It was the coolest nonetheless.

Train in the hull of the ship, tracks on the base of the ship

Puttgarden was our next immediate stop and our first in Germany. It was then another rush through Germany down to Hamburg. I felt tired and queasy and although the scenery was pretty, with surprising wildlife (herons, deer, birds of prey) I kept dozing off. My first class seat was very roomy and very comfortable . Although the train got a bit busier at Puttgarden it was still lovely and quiet.

Danish Scenery versus German Scenery. :| There were a lot of wind turbines on either side.

We arrived into Hamburg at 14:21 after leaving Copenhagen at 9.37am. I disembarked and went up to the main station and immediately had my senses assaulted with the rush of people and noise. Hamburg is crazy. So much busier than Copenhagen was, though I do recognise I was in Copenhagen predominantly over the weekend, and Hamburg now in the week. Thankfully it’s well sign posted so I could find the tourist office and pick up a map and some leaflets. I hadn’t really planned this part of my holiday at all and wanted to do some while resting and being still.

Sad little hotel room.
My hotel was thankfully just over the road from the station. It’s great location is pretty much it’s only standout. The room is cheerless and sparse. Tired and lacking in any kind of decoration. There isn’t even a coat hook, or a nice seat. There is a bed, a table and stool and a wardrobe. There is an aging bathroom, clean enough, but also so tired looking it makes you feel a little tired and depressed to see it. What a sad, dreary room. It’s no smoking but it was definitely smoking at one point – there is the unmistakable smell of it sunk deep into the surroundings. Worse, the door is flimsy, the lock flimsy, the front desk never seems to be manned, so anyone could come up here, give the door a good kick and get in. There’s no safe or locker. It’s a tiny bit worrying. Oh and the walls are thin and I am acutely aware of my neighbours. It’s like being in student dorms again. Oh well… the location is amazing and that’s what I need. (Also the room is warm. The hotel in Copenhagen the heating refused to come on making for a slightly chilly stay. So now I am warm. Yay for small victories?)

Hamburg Art Museum

Hamburg Art Museum
After a little planning I ventured out for a quick poke around the art museum. There was no map available, none I could see, so it was quite confusing and a little overwhelming trying to make sense of the maze of rooms. I found myself going back on myself and getting lost. It’s a weird experience getting lost in a museum. After that I went to check out Lake Alster but I felt tired and still fairly queasy so although I did see the lake I didn’t do much walking around it as planned. I headed back instead, treated myself to a bratwurst and chip supper takeaway. Then holed up in my sad, dreary little room to finish planning and rest.

Hamburg HBF

Copenhagen Day 3

day03_11
Monday 10th October, 10.31pm

Today it was raining heavily, but at least it was slightly warmer. My sister and I started our day by visiting the National Museum. Or rather, trying to. It was unexpectedly closed. My sister was so bummed, because she had done the research and nowhere had told her this would happen. Seeing her feeling so responsible, I tried to cheer her up by suggesting a visit to a nearby church that was mentioned on the walking tour as being worth visiting. Alas, it was closed too. Wet and now both bummed out, we headed on to Rosenborg Castle, which was thankfully open. It is older than Christiansborg, and was much more dour, but still interesting. We got to see the crown jewels!

day03_02

Rosenborg Castle from the outside

Then we made our way to Nørreport Station where we would part ways, my sister to go and pack and get ready to go to the airport, and myself to the National Aquarium Denmark. My sister was heading back home to the UK whilst I would be carrying on my holiday in Germany. Before that, we hunted down someplace to get lunch and found ourselves at an amazing cafe “Cafe au Lait”. I had crispy ciabatta with egg, salad, crispy bacon and dressing. It was a hefty amount of food, but utterly delicious. I also broke my diet in four ways (milk, coffee, alcohol and cream) to have a Bailey’s latte which was amazing and probably all the more amazing by being so sinful. The cafe was quiet and the woman who was running it was very friendly. She recommended us the apple pie as a dessert, and we shared it as we were both quite full – but too tempted to say no! We then parted ways which was pretty sad. I was enjoying spending time with my sister and wished she was going to Germany with me :(

day03_04

Delicious Lunch from Cafe au Lait

I took the train from Nørreport Station to the aquarium – which was actually pretty close to the airport… really quite far out. The aquarium was amazing though. They had these digital touch displays where you could explore what habit they had modelled the aquarium on and what fish were in it. I saw a lot of fish you can buy as a home aquarist like cichlids, discus and tetras! They, of course, had a shark tunnel you could walk through. I had so much fun. (Also, outside the aquarium you could look across and see, just about, The Bridge to Malmo i.e. the one from the TV show. YES)

day03_06

National Aquarium Denmark

Getting back was not as much fun as the train was a little delayed (only 3 minutes, but still this is Europe I didn’t know they could get delays here! ;) ) I went back to the hotel…I was staying in the same hotel but in a different room. The new room in the hotel is so much better. To no one’s surprise a more expensive room is of higher quality. Although being right above the bar meant I would face a lot of noise later on. Anyway, I got to see my sister again! I got back to the hotel and her stuff was there. Which freaked me out a little, as I couldn’t see her anywhere. Then I remembered she said she wanted to go eat at the hotel bar before leaving. I ran down to restaurant downstairs and found her preparing to eat supper. As she has no checked in luggage and the trains are frequent she was having a relaxed start to her travels back/was leaving later. (Imagine trying to pull the same thing off in the UK…no chance! A 3 minute delay would be magical, here.) We ate supper together then I walked her to station to actually say goodbye :(

I am off to Hamburg tomorrow…no idea how the journey is going to work and quite nervous :/

day03_08

Copenhagen Day 2

day02_05
Sunday 9th October 2016, 9.58pm

Today started out quite late as nothing opens very early here and we were confident our plans didn’t require an earlier start. Today we wanted to go to the National Museum, Christiansborg Palace, do a free walking tour and go to the Copenhagen street food indoor market. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that a museum we wanted to go to on Monday closed on Mondays until this morning, so we had to have a small reshuffle in our plans and include a bit more journey time as we’d have to go out our way to include it. We took out the National Nuseum and decided to go to the other museum today after the palace and before the tour.

We got going, buying a packed breakfast from the hotel and a smoothie from a cafe for brunch. Danes are so health conscious. Salads, alternate diets and juice bars are everywhere. (Even the convenience stores sell paleo bars and gluten free snacks!) I wanted just a normal fruit based smoothie and the menu was packed with green smoothies (even ones with peas!) We found one that was just juice and fruit and it was very expensive and not so great? The juice bar I go to at home mixes sorbet into their smoothies for a thicker, creamier texture. This smoothie was more watery and slightly bitter.

Anyway, we ate huddled on a bench along the way. Which was no fun. It’s so cold here.

day02_01

Christiansborg Royal Reception Halls

Then we carried on to Christiansborg Palace where we explored the Royal Reception Halls. It was stunning. The rooms were large, bright and airy. It felt modern and fresh, and honestly you could see people using it and enjoying it. I loved the way that you could see into all the rooms through the doorways, and the way that so many of the items had been repurposed from something else- oak flooring from a sunken ship, dining table from the queen’s staircase of the second version of the palace which burnt down (there were about five previous versions of the palace , all of which had been destroyed) etc. In the great hall they had put up a series of modern tapestries commissioned in 1990 and completed in 2000 (commissioned for the queen’s 50th birthday and ready by her 60th!) And although the bright colours and bold, modern designs weren’t my thing I thought it was a fun touch that added to the sense of usefulness and modernity of the place. Also it took a team of sixty ten years to create them which woa

day02_10

More Christiansborg Royal Reception Halls

Afterwards we walked to the David Collection. From the outside it looks like a small museum, but inside was a labrythinth of ancient Islamic art. Unusually, they provided tablets for us to get English information on the items. We hovered over a point on the collection casing or on the wall near the casing and this brought up text to read. We barely even got through one floor in two hours. It was so interesting. I know nothing of Islam or the influence of Islam on western culture so this provided a fascinating insight. The ceramics, tapestries and other cloth work was so beautiful in particular. Everyone else there was quiet and interested. The staff were nice. The information provided was detailed and informative. It was a lovely place and it’s a shame we only got one floor done. But honestly, there’s so much to see (and read!) I don’t think even a full day would be enough to get the whole place done.

day02_18

Various random shots from the walking tour

We then walked to the meeting point for the walking tour. The walking tour was quite interesting. They pointed out the statues under the water of the canal- very creepy! – which are based on a traditional Danish fairytale Agnete and the Merman. The statues show the merman and his children reaching out to land, as if calling to their lost wife/mother. Apparently in the winter when the canals freeze over, all you can see of them are their fingers or part of their hands. D: The tour carried on to Christianshaven, where we could see the gamblers church (so called because the German merchants who built it could not get government funding for its construction, so raised the money themselves by opening gambling halls), and the Church of our Saviour (traditionally the church spires are built clockwise as a defense mechanism, giving the defender room to swing their sword but the offender would hit the wall, but this was built anticlockwise in protest) and some of the older buildings that exist there, ending at Christiana Freetown. I didn’t feel comfortable going into Christiana Freetown but my sister wanted to go so I reluctantly followed her. It was uncomfortable. Afterwards we checked out Noma – why not- and then went to get street food at the Copenhagen Indoor Street food market. It was not as cheap as the name would imply but it was tasty. I had bibimbap, Danish apple pie and lemonade. Yummy.

We walked back to the underwater statues to see if they would be lit up. They were, but not particularly dramatically. Then back to hotel. Last day tomorrow…
day02_14