Monday, February 18, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggidy Jig

Despite rumours of eternal darkness and showers, Brussels is sunny and warm today. A nice follow up to yesterday's equally wonderful weather. I feel spoiled - especially with reports from Athens and China of unprecedented snow and cold.

My holiday was amazing! With the exception of some banking troubles yesterday afternoon (which has left me with negative euros and hopes that K will let me eat the left overs in the fridge until things get sorted out), the week away from work/school was magnificent. The weather, the people, the landscape, the road tripping, the history - it was all just as it should be. I feel relaxed, rested and ready to tackle the next five weeks until Slovenia.

I can't possibly pack in the last ten days of good times and good eats into one post - so you will have to be patient and experience vicarious associations at a moderate pace.

Rather than going in any sort of order, I want to start with my blogger-ode to Northumberland. I loved it. It was fantastic. And K-before-K is a big turd for raining on my 'let's move to Northern England' parade with his unfounded comments about darkness, drudgery and bleakness. Blah - he knows nothing. The people of Northumberland were wonderful, the scenery was breathtaking, and, even on the darkest day, the pubs were warm and they knew more about vegan-good-eats (The pub in Twice Brewed makes most of their soups VEGAN....and yes, they actually said "Vegan") then most of Southern Ontario.

We drove up from Manchester on Tuesday - leaving after our last Healey and Healey oats and tea breakfast. We were privy to blue skies and sunshine the whole ride up. We stopped for a pizza lunch in Newcastle (after taking in the jaw dropping size of The Angel of The North). The pizza was ok (no, La Pizzeria, but the olives and wine were yummy). Kevin had a camera-clicking party along the riverside and we were back on the road by about 4 30 -headed for our final destination.

The rest of the drive up north was sheepy and hilly. The Cheviot range of hills were full of brightly spray painted sheep - I liked the pink ones the best. We arrived at The Coach House just after the sun had set. Leona, one of the owners, met us at the front door, showed us our (fantastic) rafters room and took us to the lounge for an afternoon tea.

I have stayed at but a few B&Bs in my lifetime, and maybe they weren't the best. But, The Coach House exceeded all of my expectations. I was totally impressed with the service, the food, the room, the laid back atmosphere and the surrounding area.

Food wise, Leona went out of her way to make me comfortable and meet my wacky needs. Every morning a new soy product had sprouted on the table K and I shared during breakfast. Breakfast!!! Breakfast......if so much food could be labeled by but one name. She slow cooks her oatmeal every evening (salted in the yummy Scottish tradition), and serves it in the A.M with stewed fruit and maple syrup. The oatmeal was meant as a starter - toast, (eggs, bacon, and other meaty options) followed. The carbs, though many, went to good use - hiking, walking and regular tom foolery kept us svelte all week long.

I would (and hope to) head back to the Coach House. I can't recommend it enough. It was perfect distance from everything we wanted to check out: Hadrian's Wall, a cult of Mithra's worshiping site (who doesn't want to worship Mithra?), Lindisfarne, Alwnick (home of the Harry Potter castle....and a very likelysite of where Alan Rickman has slept, eaten and walked around), the shore, loads of great castles, and some cute little 'spend the day' towns.

The cost didn't gut me either - totally manageable room rates. The room itself was fantastic - huge, comfy bed, bright and big bathroom. My only complaint was the water pressure in the room.

Lunch and dinner - with the exception of Thursday - were foraged for in other locations - and, on the whole, I was really impressed with my options and the fare that found its way into my mouth. A picnic of hummus and oat cakes after our walk around Lindisfarne, a descent curry at the Twice Brewed Inn and a great pub dinner on the night of our arrival were some of the highlights.

Our one true food disappointment didn't come until we reached Durham: an oily, buttery, food throwing Tapyanaki-house fleeced us for a good portion of our first born son's college fund. The only cool thing about this noisy hill top restaurant was the veggie sushi...not maki...sushi. I was impressed.

There was loads of other wonder moments to this past week - great new C.D.'s, my brand new copy of Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth Style), Kevin's new alter ego (sun glasses can change a man forever), really good Marks and Spencer side road stops and some kid named Mr. Bean. I promise to find the time to post Ks really good photos - they are too good to miss.

Glad to be home. Brussels is just about perfect. All that's missing is a little bit of Bigger.

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