29/07/14 - Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

You absolutely can't beat a typical British seaside holiday.  I'm talking paddling in the freezing cold sea, eating chips in the car while rain lashes the windows, and wasting a small fortune in two pence coins at the arcades.  You come away with sand in your shoes, a touch of unexpected sunburn, a stomach full of too much candyfloss and ice cream...but with a big smile on your face.

To kick off what ended up being the best part of a full week of brilliant birthday celebrations, I took advantage of having a couple of days off work.  When I was a child, we used to have summer holidays in Scarborough and Whitby because my parents used to live in that neck of the woods when they were first married.  It had been a while since I'd been to the North East coast, so it was a lovely little trip down memory lane and exactly what I needed after some stressful days in work.

We started the jaunt with a road trip to Whitby, which featured some utterly vile rain and a terrifyingly vertical ascent through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.  When we finally arrived, the weather hadn't cleared up much, so we went for a wander to find the fish and chip shop with the shortest wait for a table in their cafe.  Although ideally chips should be eaten on a bench overlooking the water, the rain was not conducive to this kind of holiday traditionalism.  No worries, we had plenty of time over the next couple of days for eating al fresco.  After lunch, it was time for a wander through the cobbled streets of shops on our way up to Whitby Abbey.  Of course we had to stop at every single bookshop we passed (and there were plenty), and Shaun was wonderfully patient as I walked around touching the spines of books before leaving without buying anything.

Snapping away like a pro.  He can do more with a phone camera
than I could ever do with a DSLR.
The Abbey perches atop a cliff and is one of the things that Whitby is most famous for.  The other thing is Dracula...who most definitely did not live at the Abbey, no matter what many Americans tourists may believe.  To get to the top of the cliff, I would recommend the famous 199 steps.  Tradition demands that you count them on your way up and trust me, that'll help distract you from the fact that, if you're anything like me, your heart may be starting to complain as you get higher.  Shaun was utterly shocked by just how unfit I am, laughing at me as I collapsed panting onto a low wall as soon as we reached the top.  Don't judge me, it gave me a chance to properly appreciate the beautiful view over Whitby harbour.  That was definitely the only reason I had to sit down...  I recovered quickly though, as I was keen to explore the picturesque ruins of the Abbey.  I don't believe that a holiday is complete without at least one English Heritage site under your belt.

After wandering around the Abbey and watching some mental tourists nearly kill themselves climbing on the terrifyingly high walls, the next step on our trip was Scarborough.  The journey from Whitby doesn't take too long, but it's plenty of time to have a bit of a rave to some old school Justin Timberlake on the way.  God, I love road trips.  After checking into the Royal Hotel (which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone) and having some downtime in the bar to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, we retired to our freakin' huge hotel room for some well-earned rest.

Monday dawned hot and sunny, and it was a struggle to drag myself away from the balcony's beautiful view in order to make the most of the cooked buffet breakfast before heading out to enjoy the weather.

But not before we went for a roam around the incredibly impressive hotel.  The Royal doesn't look like much from the outside but with an interior like this, that hardly matters.

Scarborough is a much bigger seaside-y place than Whitby and there's an awful lot to do and see, but those things aren't necessarily always very close together.  Especially if, like us, you only have the vaguest of ideas about where things are, you'll end up doing a lot of walking.  Of course walking isn't so bad when the sun is shining and you have the beautiful coastal views to entertain you.

There were two things on my Scarborough wish-list that I insisted we just had to do.  One was boating on the lake at Peasholme Park, and the other was an ice cream at the Harbour Bar.  Both are things I remember from childhood holidays and definitely very typically Scarborough pursuits.

After a lot of debate over whether we wanted to take the infinitely cooler but slightly too easy option of a dragon-shaped pedalo or to try actually rowing, we opted for the challenge.  It turns out rowing is not quite as easy as it looks, and we spent a lot of time going around in circles and banging into walls.  Every time Shaun seemed to get into some kind of rhythm with it, I would insist on having a turn with the oars and all his good work would be undone.  By some miracle, we managed to complete a full lap of the boating lake in only five minutes more than our allotted half an hour.  I would call that a roaring success.

Basically the only photo of me rowing in which
I don't look very confused or utterly demented. Not my forte.
Once we were back on dry land, we took another little coastal stroll before mounting the hill that separates Scarborough's South and North Bay areas.  Here we found some more ruins, this time of Scarborough Castle.  Slightly less picturesque than Whitby Abbey since the castle is much more ruined and there's not quite so much to take photographs of.

We strolled down the other side of the hill, past the site of Anne Bronte's grave, to hit up my second Scarborough must - the Harbour Bar.  As a child, this place intrigued me like no other...mostly because it was the home of the world's largest ice cream cones that I was never allowed to have.  I'm talking cones the length of your forearm, no exaggeration.  It's really no wonder my parents were sceptical about letting little Hannah loose on them; adult Hannah decided it was a ridiculous idea and plumped instead for a classic knickerbocker glory.  It was totally worth it, purely for the nostalgia value.

After the ice cream, the next obvious step was to hit up every single arcade we passed.  We came away with black hands from the grime on all the two pences we wasted/invested and marvellously sweaty from a pretty epic dance mat battle...which I won, naturally.  Shaun put up an impressive fight though.  I suspect a rematch will be necessary at some point.  And then of course, it was time to cool off with one final holiday tradition; paddling.

It was pretty difficult to drag ourselves away from the gorgeous views of the afternoon sun glinting off the vast expanse of water but sadly, the real world beckoned.  Writing this blog post has been a lovely way to revisit the brilliant couple of days I had, and now I have more to remember it by than just the peeling sunburned shoulders and the sand that still seems to be in my socks even after a couple of weeks.

What an appropriate sign.

What are your best holiday memories from childhood?  Let me know in the comments!

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