Right now, we should be in Oregon, driving through forests and stopping off to admire the stunning lakes, heading for California. Instead, I’m sat in my dressing gown in my living room, with nothing I need to do. It made me sad on Saturday when I thought that we should have been on a plane to Seattle at that very moment, ready to start an epic road trip down the Pacific Coast, yet today, I don’t feel the same longing or sadness. Today, I feel achy and tired and rejuvenated, after a sweet little excursion to the British east coast yesterday.
In my mind, I had expected it to be a brisk, Autumnal day, yet it was more like mid-Summer with temperatures creeping up to 25 degrees Celsius and the sun still high in the sky. The drive was lovely; we listened to country music and watched as the endless fields, dotted with hay bales, flashed by. We were definitely not in America – the British countryside has a quality that can be found nowhere else in the world. I can’t describe it, only that you know it when you see it. America is so BIG. Everything is spread apart, sprawling, infinite, open, whereas in Britain we are closed in. The roads are narrow and wind in and out, the trees and houses are closer together, yet somehow this is what gives it its magic. Even the most open vista appears to be layered, somehow. They seem to echo the Yorkshire folk’s aesthetic of simplicity and humble foundations.
We got excited when we got our first glimpse of the sea. Of course, we were sat in traffic – it’s Britain – but we were in no hurry. The blue shadow on the horizon beckoned us forward, though at a crawling pace.
We got parked up okay – luckily – but had our usual fight with the ticket machine. First stop – toilets! Grimy and stinky but a seaside holiday staple. Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
We had our first stroll along the beach and took off our ill-advised jackets. There was no breeze (which was rather unsettling being on the east coast of Britain) and as it crept towards midday, it only got hotter and stuffier. There were already plenty of folks out sunbathing, cooking themselves alive.
Sat on the beach, we ate glorious fish and chips for dinner – drenched in salt and vinegar – with an icy slush to wash it down. With our sandy bums, we walked off our food by heading to the pier to have a look at the boats bobbing like seagulls in the bay, before heading back along the promenade to buy some fudge as a souvenir for our trip (a souvenir that would disappear within five minutes of getting back in the car and setting off on our next leg of the journey).
We were there, in total, little more than an hour – a whistle-stop tour of Scarborough, if you will. While I wanted a taste of the ‘standard’ seaside experience – the nostalgia of brightly-lit two-penny slots, the greasy food and the feel of wet sand beneath your feet – I craved the real British coast, far from the sweaty, red crowds and the smell of sun cream and hot dogs.
Next stop: Flamborough Head. Compared to Scarborough, it was quiet here. The car park was some gravel in a field and the breeze swept through me the minute I opened the car door. It felt fresh and alive.
First, we explored the cliffs. We sat and just enjoyed the views of the bays down below and the glistening sea stretching all the way out to the horizon, without the distraction of chatter and the sun bouncing off the bare flesh of passers-by. I forced myself to be present, ignoring the question of ‘what’s next?’ which always seems to nag at me, and just listened to the waves crashing on the shore below. What could I hear? Crickets buzzing in the grass, a dog barking nearby, the wind rushing over the cliff tops. I focused on what I could see, feel and hear and just enjoyed sitting there beside my husband in that magical place. There’s nothing like it. Oregon didn’t seem like such a melancholy thought right then.
After drinking in our fill of the scenery from above, we ate an ice cream on the grass and watched as a dog wearing an England hoodie scampered about, before taking the rickety stairway down to the shore. The tide was in so we couldn’t explore any caves, but we sat on the pebble-dashed, shingly shore and watched the waves crash, ebbing closer, threatening to wet our feet.
Although there were other people down there, it felt like it was just my husband and me. Everything looked bright and mystical, like our own dreamy little secret. The sun had hidden behind the cliffs at our backs, casting the cove in shadow, but the sand and rocks gleamed like diamonds, the water sparkled and the white cliffs rising out of the water on either side reflected the sunlight, dazzling us. The smell of salt and seaweed was strong but pleasant, and it kept me centred. My husband wrote our names on a large pebble and perched it on the knobbly cliff wall. Hopefully it stays there for a while, showing that we did indeed live and breathe and had been in that place, if only for a moment.
We took a different route back up and my husband took a moment to climb atop an old war bunker. I laughed as I watched him explore and play, like the child he once was – I adore his need to touch and hold history.
We set off home feeling thoroughly refreshed and satisfied, and I admit, for myself, a little achy. I haven’t done much for six months so I’m feeling the strain on my muscles today.
The drive back was just as peaceful and enjoyable; we passed by majestic stately homes and quaint, pretty cottages decorated with flora and fauna, looked out at the fields and forests, and the hills and valleys as they rolled by, all dappled with the golden sunlight of the approaching evening. We listened to Planet Rock on the radio and my favourite moment was getting stuck in a traffic jam at Stamford Bridge. Baba O’Riley came on the radio and the view was perfect, the warm wind blowing through the open windows and rippling through my hair was perfect, my husband sat beside me looking content was perfect. It was the perfect end to the perfect day and the best traffic jam I’ve ever been in.
We may not be on our epic road trip, exploring places we’ve never been, but we’re still on an adventure, and this place is our home, which somehow makes it all the more magical. No matter how many times you visit these places, there is always something new to be found, always a new discovery to make. Whether it transports you back to a childhood memory or a happier time in your life, or whether it plants you firmly in the here and now, how your life has brought you to this point, nature, especially in a place that is dear to your heart, can always surprise you. It keeps me grounded and reminds me that, no matter where we are, I’m always on an adventure with my soul mate by my side.