As everyone was fleeing London for a sunny place after months of cold, grey weather, we decided to purse our stiff, not-so-British lips and head to the coast.
Surely a fresh breeze, some delicious fish, and an empty, sandy beach would be perfect.
That was the cunning plan. We had decided to stay at the Westleton Crown, a pub/hotel rumoured to have great food and also to have sheltered our Kate and William for a night recently (I'm guessing in one of the two suites overlooking the garden, they would never have fit in one of the other teensy rooms). So while London was grey and cold, we headed east. Sadly we didn’t get very far; the City roads were blocked on a Bank Holdiay Monday, and thanks to numerous 'deviations' of the Traffic Police variety, we reached the sunny Southeast three hours later. But still, we were looking forward to the wonderful sand dunes of Walberswick, the cute houses of Lavenham, and of course the key attractions: Southwold and Aldeburgh.
The classic film The French Lieutenant's Woman was made at the pier in Southold, and the brooding, ominous atmosphere it evoked would be perfect there on a winter (OK, April) day I dreamed about, and I figured this would be the only time we’d have it to ourselves. The Romanticism!
Well, I didn’t know the sturdy Brits, did I? They were all there, sitting in a gale-force wind, eating ice-cream! While the jolly, colourful beach huts were not yet occupied, the Pier’s restaurant was overflowing with keen fish & chips eaters (gluten-free once a month!)
Actually there is something very odd about those beach huts (which retail at £120,000, according to the estate agents): As they don’t face the sea, their little wooden verandas open to… the car park. How weird is that? If I go to the sea, I'd like to see the sea from my porch, but maybe it says something about the stern southeasterly wind.
We weren’t up for all that, and fled to Aldeburgh, a much more civilized place we told ourselves, a place world-famous people like Benjamin Brittan called home. But sadly it was equally cold. The gale had not abated, and and again, full of people eating ice cream. The British Bulldog spirit is alive and well!
We’ll come back when the sun comes out. It the must be gorgeous then, even though it is strewn with enormous pig farms, each little pig having it’s own little abode. Thorpeness is worth another look as well, a village founded by a Scottish billionaire who had made his money with railways in Russia in the early 1920's.
And hopefully, with less of an icy wind blowing, we’ll make to the beautiful sculpture of a shell on the beach with the rather unsettling inscription: 'I hear the voices that cannot be drowned. And if not, we'll just get ice cream.