UK Firsts: The Shore

08/28/2009

“There’s a dream I have
It comes back when all the days turn into one
I’m in a coat and hat
And I’m standing on the coast of England”

-Rosie Thomas-

While my dear friend Julie visited (a few weeks ago..I’m slow on the uptick), we ventured to the shore of eastern England, the North Sea to be exact.  Though short in miles, the journey on public transportation proved, per usual on public, to be an adventure in itself.  The destination proved to be everything I imagined.

We took a train from Cambridge to a small town called Kings Lynn.  We rode the bikes (the Oregon Trail and the Key West are their names) to the station hoping to take them with us on our entire journey.  We missed our first train by 45 seconds but underneath the exquisitely blue sky, the delay was almost welcome.  Maybe because Julie treated us to a chocolate croissant as we sat on the platform. She treated herself to a Financial Times, and I treated myself some daydreaming, cloud and people watching. As of that week, I’ve learned to always carry a book with me.  Waiting for public transport is actually a joy now, providing free moments of pause not afforded to me in the hustle of daily life commuted by car in the states.

Once we boarded the train, I was immediately insecure about my bike etiquette (or lack thereof).  We managed and landed at Kings Lynn.  However, we learned the bikes could not accompany us on the bus portion of our journey.  We found our bus stop then locked them around the corner.  Julie saw the bus coming and yelled out, so we took off sprinting around the station corner, determined not to let our transport slip through our fingers again.  We jumped aboard the bus and the friendly, surprised driver asked us, “Well, where did you ladies just come from?!”  We bought our “Coasthopper” ticket and I balanced the next twenty miles standing just behind the red line in the very front of the packed bus.  Choice position for someone prone to carsickness.

Twenty miles later we arrived at Hunstanton, the first coastal town on western portion of the northern shore of the east Anglia region of England (how about them cardinal directions?).  There are several Hunstanton stops, so I asked the man next to me (who was commentating the entire ride turn by turn to his friends with luggage- therefore I assumed he was a local):  “Which stop is closest to the cliffs?”  His response:  “(blank stare) Uh, cliffs?  (shakes head) You sure you’re in the right place now?  The only cliffs I know of are in Dover (clear across the country).  There are no cliffs here.”  I was thinking, thanks Friendly, but you’re WRONG and I’m glad I have my sunglasses on.  I had seen pictures.  There were cliffs.

We hopped off the bus and walked over to the ocean.  The natural aspects were uniquely beautiful to my east coast eye, but the “Joke Shops” and hotdog/hamburger joints were surprising.  Julie pegged it instantly:  “We have found the Myrtle Beach of England”.  Like many things in England though, even the most commercialized areas are still twice as charming.

Oh, and there were cliffs.  Beautiful, striped cliffs.

After the beach jaunt, we hopped the bus to Wells-next-the-Sea for a little fish-n-chips.  There was a little festival in town and the crabbing competition just started.  We settled on a chip shop and the line was long which gave us plenty of time to strategise.  Half or full?  After a woman walked by with a slab-o-fish, we settled on half.  No mushy peas.  Vinegar on the side.  I loved the fish- not so much the chips; too thicky steak fry-ish.  Now some chick-fil-a waffle fries would’a been mighty fine….

We hopped all the way back past Hunstanton to Norfolk, calculating there were two more busses to come.  This would give us time to see the lavender fields.  They were closed, but their little fence didn’t keep us out.  I never knew there were so many different varieties.  We decided we had plenty-o-time (famous last words) so we wandered up the road and off the road to the top of a hill that was FULL of beautiful garden plots.  FULL, FULL I tell you!  It was amazing.  We started to take it all in, there were dozens of tiny little sheds with pipes running off them into…bath tubs!  And compost piles structured by pallets and insulated by…carpet remnants!  Glory upon glory- I was in amazement.  And then the lush vegetables and flowers…wow.  The image most impressed in my mind are the perfect rows of onions.  They were enormous and tidy and green stemmed.

There was a lone little car and two women working on a plot, one of whom approached us and asked if we were looking for someone. We bared the tourist card and she very willingly entertained our questions for at least 20 minutes (remember that bus we need to catch at the bottom of the hill….).  I filed all the knoweldge away for sharing later.  Though, it did make me most interested in learning more about the “allotment” systems here.

The sun was setting, so we said goodbyes and sucurried down the hill to the bus stop.  The next bus should have come in 2 minutes, but they were running late all day so we didn’t worry after 30.  Then we started to become delirious.  We were not in a town but at a stop on the middle of a not-so-major road and it was getting dark.  Everything became quite funny, including my phone calls to the “help” lines on our ticket and the bus stop sign… all with pleasant messages explaining they closed at 5 PM and I could call back in the morning.  Hilarious!

We vetted the option of hitch hiking to the station.  We determined our odds of getting picked up were good (female, travel worn but wearing nice scarves) and our ideal hero would be a middle aged couple with kids – safest.  Then across the road, a nice mom and her son walked by on an evening stroll.  We asked her if there was another bus coming.  She seemed doubtful, then after she thought about it, hopeful.  She was friendly as can be though and reassured us she did believe another bus would come.  Just then, one came up over the hill- she pointed and we clapped!  As it drew nearer, we could see it was our bus, but the scroll across the top read: “Out of Service”.  We waved our arms and he flew by us poining his finger up to his “Out of Service” message.

I chased down the road after him.

He did not look back.

The woman with son, though a few hundred yards away now, was puzzled too.  I was cracking up- what in the world?  Did he really just strand two females on the side of the road when he was headed to the train station?!

Just then, only a few minutes later, a second bus, “In Service” popped over the hill.  Julie and I cheered, the mom and her son cheered.  We waved our arms.  He stopped.  Glorious.

Our bikes were the only ones parked at the station when we left and I more than half expected them to be gone.  They weren’t!  The train station was deserted and we had plenty of time to kill before our depart.  So, we goofed off in the station and on the quiet streets.

Getting there and back was more than half the fun.  The things that weren’t on the agenda:  breaking into the lavender fields, the allotment, the doggie on the bus that loved on me, chasing after multiple busses…those are my favorite memories.  In Juile, I’m thankful to have a friend who is happy to mis-step and wander and explore and eat really good food right alongside me.  The only question is…where will we be off to next???



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One Response to “UK Firsts: The Shore”

  1. Face said

    -I saw Julie’s pics on FB before you posted, and I remember noticing both your scarves.
    -I expected your bikes to be gone, too!
    -Way to go on eating the fried fish– you know one person in the Hunt household is proud.
    -Wish I could’ve seen you chase down the out-of-service bus.

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