shewhomust: (bibendum)
And, speaking of holidays...

I enjoyed writing that post about what we did on my birthday, and making pretty patterns out of words and ideas. But if it weren't for sorting through my photos, seeing those patterns would have stopped me seeing things that didn't fit the pattern, our walk around Bouillon the previous evening, and the fact that we started our exploration of Trier that same day, still my birthday. I could have told you that I lunched on excellent chips, sitting on the steps of the fountain in the marketplace, enjoying the sunshine - but it took my photos to remind me that we also visited the cathedral. What can I say? My memory has its priorities.

It's a perfectly good cathedral. Living in Durham, I'm a bit spoilt for cathedrals, and after Trier we visited Aachen, about whose cathedral there will be much more, in due course. Also, in Trier the Cathedral has to compete with the Basilica. But it's a good cathedral. Here's how it looked from our bathroom window:

Cathedral view


More pictures under the cut )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
That previous post from Bouillon took me by surprise: until I sorted through the photographs, I didn't realise how much I had to say about that evening walk. What had stuck in my mind was the following day, the Monday - Easter Monday, in fact, and it happened to be my birthday. This wasn't a big deal. We hadn't particularly planned to be on holiday on my birthday, it just so happened that when we looked at dates, the period that worked best for us had my birthday in the middle of it. So we were on holiday, every day was a special treat, and a birthday, well, that's just another day.

I woke up, however, feeling every bit of a year older - more than a year. I blame hotel pillows, I can never find the right combination of 'enough but not too much': for whatever reason, I woke up with a painfully stiff neck, and spent much of the day moving very cautiously, and not looking up.

Easter Monday, say my notes, is the new Sunday. We'd been surprised the previous evening how much was open; now we were surprised all over again how much was closed. Specifically, the pharmacy: there was no chance of replenishing my supply of paracetamol. But the Castle was open, which was the main thing, and we enjoyed our explorations - in the rain.

Then a longish drive to our next destination. Birthday: a day for crossing borders with no observable difference on the two sides, between one year and the next, between Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. The best thing about the drive was something we saw trice on the motorway, a heavily wooded bridge carrying a strip of undergrowth to allow wild animals to cross the road safely. This is a Wildbrucke in German and a passage à gibier in French; if it has an English name, I don't know what it is.

Then we reached Trier, and it stopped raining. There are many things to say about Trier, but for the moment what matters is that it was a major Roman city and doesn't intend you to forget it, so [personal profile] durham_rambler celebrated my birthday with the Roman menu at Zum Domstein.
shewhomust: (Default)
Of the places we visited on our spring holiday, Bouillon was the odd one out: a small town rather than the 'city break' centres of the rest of the trip, which makes it a much more typical stop for us. My Routard guide says it is one of the major tourist centres of Wallonia, a boast whose modesty delights me. But - again, according to Routard - it has the biggest castle in Belgium, and the history to go with it:

Swans on the Semois


want to know more? )

Time to take the road to Germany.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I posted at the time about how we spent Easter Saturday morning: we went to church. That is, it was grey and rainy and seemed like a good opportunity to visit the cathedral, and admire the famous altarpiece. Later in the day we found ourselves back in the cathedral square, and I took the classic photo of the building head on, and glowing in the evening light, but I prefer this shot from the morning, as we navigated through the back streets - the not very many back streets, because our hotel was so ridiculously central - towards that tower:

The back way to the cathedral


Rest of the story behind a cut to spare your bandwidth / patience )

We hadn't registered our cards until quite late on Friday morning; we could have fitted in another museum visit before we left Ghent on Sunday. Instead we went to the book market, and I don't regret it.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Our first evening in Ghent had given us a taste of the city. Now we had to decide whether to buy the much-advertised City Cards. Our reasoning was that this was unlikely to save us money, but it might encourage us to do things we would not otherwise have done - and this turned out to be the case. I'm particularly glad we took the boat trip, which was worth doing for its own sake, and doubly so because it gave us angles from which to approach things, as well as ideas of things we wouldn't have known we wanted to see. It also made traveling by bus much less daunting (no need to ask for a destination, just show your card). So while the card isn't necessarily the cheapest option, it worked very well for us.

All our explorations of Ghent started with the same view: turn left out of the hotel, and this is what you see from the end of the street:

The Belfry in evening light


This is the classic view, in evening light, but feel free to imagine it as we set off on an overcast Good Friday morning to visit the Tourist Office and purchase our cards.

It turns out you can see quite a lot in 48 hours - and take a lot of photos, too. So much so that I've decided to split this post in two! )

And that was Good Friday.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Because one of the pleasures of being on holiday is packing a big pile of books (yes, even though I have a Kindle; now I pack a big pile of books and my Kindle) and feeling justified in spending lots of time reading them. Our recent trip was a four-book holiday - and there's a hidden theme: when is a historical novel not a historical novel?

  1. Started before we set off: Ren and the Blue Hands )


  2. A novel for adults by Noel Streatfeild )


  3. Flashman )


  4. Wives and Daughters ) It's a long, steady read, and I was still deep in it when I returned home (and once I'd finished it, I was ready for more Mrs Gaskell, so that's not a bad thing).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
I was feeling that I had not completed as much work, both work work and domestic, as I should have, until I realised that it's only a week since we returned from holiday - precisely this time last week we were in the process of disembarking at North Shields. I feel better about it now.

We had been delayed by head winds overnight, and the captain apologised for our late arrival in three languages. I was delighted to spot that in English we were to arrive at "eleven o' clock, ship's time." In German this became "Central European Time." Only in Dutch was it "Netherlands time."
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I've already posted the condensed version of our day in Bruges: here's the longer version, with illustrations. As I said, we parked in the car park next to the station, which gave us free bus travel into town - and this is what we saw when we got off the bus:

Two towers">
.

There's more, under the cut: )
shewhomust: (Default)
Or, more accurately, five hotels in Northern Europe. But this is going to be a dull enough post (unless you're actually contemplating a trip to one or more of these locations) so indulge me in my immodest header. Five hotels, booked through Booking.com, which I find reliable and transparently easy to use: I didn't actually set out to pick five completely different hotels, but if I had, I couldn't have done it better.

NH Gent Belfort )

Hotel de la Poste - Relais Napoleon III )

Zum Christophel, Trier )

Pallazzo Alfonso, Aachen )

Star Lodge Hotel )

tl;dr version: no disasters, one disappointment, two perfectly OK, two strong recommendations (Trier and Utrecht).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We are on board, and sailing homeward from Amsterdam, due to arrive on Tyneside after breakfast tomorrow. Whether this will be posted before then, who knows? We have wifi, sort of, but there isn't much of it: so far I have connected to Dreamwidth and - eventually - to LiveJournal: webmail seems to be out of the question. So I'm writing this offline, and we shall see what we shall see.

From Aachen it's just a hop across the border to the Netherlands - to Maastricht, specifically. And then it's north all the way, and the whole drive is on motorways. We took a break when we were nearly there, and spent 24 hours in Utrecht (about which more with pictures at some future date). But the drive north was lovely, despite being motorway, all spring greens and yellows: great billows of yellow flowers all along the verges, which I'm pretty sure are rape (that acid yellow is some kind of brassica, surely) and the bright green of water meadows, and the delicate green of trees just coming into spring foliage, and the rows of pollarded willows by the water. Not to
mention the asparagus stands by the side roads, because here, too, it is asparagus season, though this is Dutch asparagus, and the stands fly the national flag. And because we are in the Netherlands, we also saw at least two teams of cyclists in matching strip, and one iconic windmill.

This afternoon's motorway from Utrecht to Amsterdam was more urban, but that had its interest, too: some magnificently over-the-top modern office buildings, the most spectacular of all, a curved wall of glass and stone decorated with purple banners celebrating KPMG's hundredth birthday. But there was water, which improves any landscape - though when our satnav tried to persuade us to take a ferry across one of those bodies of water, we put our feet down, and drove the long way round (which was, in fact, the signposted route).

Of course we were still early for the ferry, and kept waiting until almost the last to load - and then directed to a point on the car deck which is as far as possible removed from our cabin (seriously: the length of a corridor, up two flights of stairs, down two flights of stairs and back the length of the corridor). But the cabin is comfortable enough, and we'll see if we can improve that journey in the morning, and meanwhile I am in the bar with a glass of Sancerre (keeping up that asparagus theme), ready to put that wifi to the text and go in search of dinner.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We visited the cathedral again today, having decided that joining a guided tour was a price worth paying for access to the parts of the building only accessible on those terms (the "throne of Charlemagne" - not actually the throne of Charlemagne - in the first gallery, and the gothic choir which houses the remains of Charlemagne - probably). There's too much of a crowd - both our own group, and others - to allow the sort of access I'd really like, but as an unexpected bonus our guide (Oliver) was excellent, good-humoured under stress and full of information.

The reliquary / tomb of Charlemagne


This is an end view of the coffin / reliquary (picture it as shaped like a house) which is believed to contain the bones - most of them - of Charlemagne (he was declared a saint in the twelfth century by the antipope). And unlike just about every reliquary you've ever come across, there is good reason to believe that it contains what it is claimed to contain: the bones of a man of 60 or 70, of exceptional height. I don't know whether these were dated, but there is a continuous record back to Charlemagne's original interment in a rather fine classical marble sarcophagus depicting the rape of Proserpina.

I was so grateful that our tour had allowed even this brief approach to this glittering artifact, but we had seen plenty of bling in the Cathedral Treasury yesterday. No-one before Oliver had been prepared to talk intelligently about relics as a phenomenon, what they really are and what they tell us about the people who cared about them (I wrote at some length about this in the context of the Books of Outremer, of which [personal profile] desperance promises us a new edition soonest, hooray!). The audioguide to the Treasury talked not only about the relics of Charlemagne, and the random fragments of the Crown of Thorns and splinters of the cross, not to mention teeth of various saints, in the collection, but also explained - without batting an eyelid - the four great relics in the possession of the cathedral. These are:
  • the gown worn by the Virgin Mary (to whom the cathedral is dedicated) when she gave birth to the Christ child

  • the swaddling clothes of the baby Jesus

  • the loin cloth worn by Jesus during His Crucifixion

  • and the cloth on which the severed head of St. John the Baptist was placed

I don't think we are expected to take this literally for one moment - because, seriously? But in that case, what are these objects? And they do seem to be genuinely old - really old - textiles (some information about that dress). It would be interesting to know more.

In Trier we had seen (sort of - through glass, and darkly) their relic, the Holy Robe, which is supposed to be a tunic worn by Jesus, and brought to Trier by St Helena (which is pretty weak provenance, but at least it goes through the motions). They don't try to claim much in the way of authenticity, either, but argue that the seamless robe symbolises Christian unity (possibly because both are getting a bit tattered). The city was gearing up for one of its periodic celebrations of the robe, when it will be displayed to pilgrims, so here's a silly story from a previous event.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I have wanted to visit Aachen for as long as I have known where it is. Longer, in fact, since it took me quite a long time to work out a) that Aachen and Aix-la-Chapelle are the same place and b) that Aix-la-Chapelle is nowhere near Aix-en-Provence (though 'Aix' in each case refers to mineral springs). Once I had that sorted out, I wanted to visit, because:

Karolus underfoot


This was Charlemagne's capital, he built the eponymous chapel, and it is still here. Who wouldn't want to see that? I don't hold with bucket lists, which I regard as a way of deferring doing things that other people think you ought to want ("oh, it's OK, it's on my bucket list..."): but if I had a bucket list, Aachen would have been on it.

No pressure then. But our arrival was disconcerting. This is the only hotel of the trip that doesn't have its own parking: Booking.com says "Public parking is available 200 m away from the property," and since the Routard guide gives it a rave recommendation, we thought we'd risk it. So we double parked to unload the suitcases, and by the time we'd done that, there was a space free outside the hotel, and the proprietress said just park there, and get a ticket from the meter. Roger trotted off to do that, and I carried on with booking in (there were forms to be completed). "Oh," said the proprietress, "it says here that you want a green sticker..." I what? But as I was denying all knowledge of this, Roger returned, having fended off a traffic warden who told him he needed a green sticker. It emerged that many German towns do now require a sticker proclaiming that your car meets environmental standards, and it isn't very expensive but you really do need to have one. There are various people who might have warned us of this (whoever attached that message to our online booking; the car insurance company, who required us to tell them we were coming to Germany...) but no-one had. Our hostess was very helpful about phoning around and discovering a garage who would sell us a 'Grüne Plakette' in the morning, and meanwhile we were less likely to be fined for not having one if we parked the car off-street in that multi-story car park 200 m away. Roger was a bit disgruntled about this, having already paid for on-street parking, but it couldn't be helped.

Anyway, that's the story I didn't want to post last night, and I was right, because today is much happier. We found the garage, and I knew all would be well when I saw my tutelary deity behind a cut, as this might get picture-heavy): )

So that was good. And now I'm going to have a bath, and complete the destressing process.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We are in Aachen, and I am reunited with my keyboard, since our hotel room here has a convenient spot for me to sit and type. So that's good. It's quite a splendid room, with lots of space and a huge window leading onto a balcony. In other respects our arrival in Aachen has been complicated, and I'm not ready to post about that yet. Fortunately, there's plenty to catch up with! So here's how we spent yesterday evening:

Roger had found a tour advertised on the Tourist Office website, offering a combination of tour of the city in a vintage bus, and wine tasting at the winery in the neighbouring village - so that, give or take, is what we did. Let me clear up the 'take' aspect of that first, because all my criticisms are to do with the mismatch between the advance information and what actually happened: the package itself was fine. The vintage coach is a lovely creature (you can smell her coming from several yards away, but that's only to be expected) but a city tour ought to mean more than passing the several impressive landmarks along the route between the Porta Nigra and the winery in Olewig. This was fine by us, as we had by this time visited all the promised sights already, and were more disappointed not to return via the viewpoint on the Petrisberg above the vineyards. Well, it would have been dark anyway... And I wish they had told us that there was a restaurant at the winery, and we would be able to eat there while we tasted the wines (the restaurant actually appears elsewhere on the Tourist Office website, but isn't mentioned in this context). We vhad discussed this, and eaten a late lunch at the museum, rather than risk a wine tasting while fasting, which in hindsight was a wasted opportunity.

Weingut Georg Fritz von Nell


Other than that, though, it was great fun. The winery was founded in 1804, and our guide was the eighth generation to run it and make the wine. He gave a great performance in explaining how he does this, and since we were the only non-Germans in a group of about a dozen, a lot of this was completely lost on me. When he slowed down to explain something to the five year old in the group, I was in with a chance, but most of the time I was lucky to catch one word in three or four, which was exhilarating but bewildering: wait, what was that about the full moon? He took care to check at the end of each stage that we were to some extent following, and I learned some things I hadn't known before (sweet wines are made by stopping the fermentation, and this is done by filtering out the yeast). One thing I loved was that apparently Moselle wines must spend some time in barrels, and when I asked whether he used French oak, or American, he looked very pleased with himself, and said, "Own oak!" One of the advantages of a firm founded in 1804 is that you can source your barrels from your own oak forest.

One other way in which the advance publicity erred is that we were promised a tasting of four wines, and in the event we tasted six. They were: behind a cut to spare the uninterested )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Unexpected view


This is a view from the oddly-shaped little utiliy room across the corridor from our room. It is of the Porta Nigra, the Black Gate of Trier, which is Roman. Our hotel, as you see, is very well situated, and very friendly, and our room is in the attic. It is charming. But it is not very big, and in particular, there is nowhere to sit and type. I am reduced to tablet mode, which I find very hard work. So there will be less posting for the next few days - but just as much going out and having fun!

ETA: My little notebook has just reminded me that our room is n°42.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
At the last bookstall of the market, up by the bridge, there was a fine collection of English-language poetry. In among the Yeats, and the Rattle Bag, there was Ode to Bully Beef, a collection of unofficial poetry of the Second World War, edited by Rosie Serdiville and John Sadler; Rosie Serdiville is a friend of a friend of ours, whom we know well enough to stop and chat when we run into her, but we had not expected to run into her here. We were discussing this with sufficient animation for the stallholder to notice, and comment that we had come a long way to buy English poetry. We said nice things about her stock of English poetry, which deserved them, and she repeated them to her partner, who, it turned out, was English - and not just English but with roots in County Durham: his father was from Stanley and his mother from - Tow Law, I think it was. They had visited Durham a few years ago, and enjoyed Beamish .

What Durham and Ghent have in common is that they are small cities with big universities, but they were positive about this. The students, they said, kept the town lively: compare it Bruges, which is beautiful but closes down at 8.00 pm. Though I note that they don't live in the city, but just outside; we had heard Ghent's vibrant night life from our city center hotel, and were less enthusiastic. I'm not sure how far the similarities go, either - but interesting, all the same.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
All the bells were ringing as we set off this morning for one last visit in Ghent, to the Sunday book market on the Ajuinlei; and somewhere a pipe band was just audible above the clamour of the bells, which tells you something about bagpipes.

I wasn't hoping for much in the way of English books, even though we had found English very widely spoken in the city. I did hope that, books being books,some French might have seeped into this very Flemish territory. As always, I was underestimating the extent to which Belgium is divided by its two languages: there were a few French books, but not as many as there were English. One stall, specialising in old comics - collectable old, and being checked through by a man with a grey pony tail - had adjacent cases for 'Tintin' and 'Kuifje' (both the same person).

So I ended up buying more than I had planned. First off, Photographic Pilgrim's Progress, being the memoirs of Charles Duncan ("one of the best known and most beloved veterans of photography", says the jacket copy), published in 1954. Then we came to a stall offering books at €2, 3 for €5, so when I had picked up a collection of Zelazny short stories (it's called The Doors of his Face, the Lamps of his Mouth, but the back says, in block caps "INCLUDES STORIES NOT IN THE ORIGINAL EDITION", so what's a girl to do?) and Maurice Maeterlinck's La Vie des Abeilles (because I had discovered that that tree that failed to light up should have been displaying blue birds in homage to Maeterlinck, who was born in Ghent, and besides, how could I resist a book of which Sam Goldwyn once said: "My God! The hero is a bee!"?), Roger contributed a Colin Dexter Inspector Morse, and our threesome was complete.

Serre d'ennui


One last Maeterlinck moment: Roger pointed out to me that the building across the river had a poem inscribed in a blank doorway, and we could make out the title, La Serre d'ennui. And here it is, in the original, and in an English translation which is accurate rather than atmospheric.

ETA: How could I have forgotten?

That mission accomplished, it was time to move on. We have left Flanders, and after a very pleasant drive through the forests of the Ardennes, we are in French speaking Wallonia, in Bouillon, with a view of the castle from our hotel bedroom.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
It rained overnight, and was still overcast and damp when we went out this morning, so we started the day with some indoor sightseeing: where else but the cathedral? For one thing, it's a cathedral, and for another it's the home of the painting which I have always thought of as the Ghent altarpiece, which we are now apparently to call 'The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb', which the tourist guides agree is one of the most important paintings of all time (I'm pretty sure I read someone claiming that it is the best painting of all time, but I can't track that down, and anyway what does it even mean?).

Somewhere inside all that baroque ornamentation is a gothic cathedral, but what caught my eye was all the black and white frills and furbelows, black wood and white marble (and, I suspect, a lot of paint, but I was reluctant to touch) like an ice cream sundae with licquorice sauce and billows of whipped cream. I don't have many pictures: a noticeboard as you enter greets you with illustrations of all the things you must not do, and of course photography is one (no, two - still and moving) of them. My initial reaction was "Must photograph that!" and then, of course, "Oh. No." In fact the prohibition was widely ignored, and once I had reached peak irritation, I too began sneaking shots. Here's one of them, showing a seriously over-the-top pulpit by Laurent Delvaux (thankyou, Routard guide, for this information). I'd love to have taken more details, but hope this gives some idea:

The Triumph of Truth over Time


In contrast, the adoration of the Great Work is performed in a small side chapel (which will ultimately, when the renovation is complete, be a separate designated display space). You pay your money, or hand over your City Card, and go in past a desk where, for another euro you can have an audio guide, and then you join the crowd in front of the painting, whose multiple panels fill almost the whole height and width of the room; everyone else is also listening to the audio guide. I'm very bad at taking in information aurally, and after a bit I handed the listening task to Roger, who very kindly gave me edited highlights. I am also not good with crowds, but this process allowed me to squeeze through to the front and look for the details we had picked out as of interest (as far as my eyesight allows). What this preamble is saying, I think, is that I have gone through the motions of adoration, but somehow failed to adore. I saw details which were pleasing, but I never saw all those panels as a unity, the parts did not add up to more than their sum. Your mileage will probably vary, but I am generally a person who likes detail. who does not believe that less is more. Generally.

There's one thing, though. By chance we were there at midday, when the attendants close the wooden shutters of the triptych, so that you see the scenes painted on the outside, and the middle tier is a wonderful Annunciation, the angel Gabriel and Mary facing each other across a bare, wooden room, with a window looking out over the city, and a jug and towel ready for use - it's almost in trompe l'oeuil, and I loved it as I did not love the gem-like symbolism of the interior. But I did wonder what it would have been like to see the process in reverse, to arrive when the shutters were closed, and to see the lamb revealed?

After this we went for a much needed beer at the theatre bar.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Roger found information about a walking route to explore the illumination of the city, and he was keen to try it out. The sun was low when we set out in search of dinner, but nowhere near set, and I was happy just to enjoy the evening light on the Belfry, and on St Nicholas', and on the view back to the three towers from St Michael's Bridge...

We ate at Balls & Glory, which does what it says on the tin: they serve meatballs. Giant meatballs, admittedly - imagine a Scotch egg in which the egg has been replaced by some kind of sauce - but meatballs, and nothing but. Well, OK, there's a choice of four balls, two pork, one chicken and one veg - and since Thursday is officially vegetarian day in Ghent I should probably have gone with that, but it was aubergine and tomato, and you never know with aubergine... Where was I? Balls & Glory wasn't our first choice, but it was fine, and cheerful: you choose your ball and whether you want it with stoemp (which is mash, and traditional) or salad, or bread and a little salad. There's beer or lemonade to drink, and wine as well if you want. There's one long table down the middle of the room, and little tables for two (or four if they squeeze up), and there's a carafe of water on your table and a bowl of apples for dessert, and we sat back and watched the Deliverooo drivers coming in to collect their orders.

By now it was dark, which was fine, that was the plan. I wasn't keen to do any more walking than we needed, but we did need to walk back to the hotel - and as soon as we set off, we found ourselves on a swing bridge, looking back to St Michael's Bridge:

Ghent at night


and what we should have done, obviously, was head for those lights (maybe we will - we still have one night left); instead we followed the original plan, and saw a couple of public buildings lit up, which weren't very exciting. What would have been exciting would have been if those birds in my picture had been illuminated as they were supposed to be, and for a while this made us wonder if we had misunderstood and the circuit was not in fact illuminated at the moment. But we asked at the Tourist Office this morning, and the lady said it's all working, and she would report the problem with the birds.

For a catalogue of 'we didn't really get we'd we'd been wanting from the evening', we had a surprisingly good time anyway. There's probably an uplifting moral in that.

In Bruges

Apr. 13th, 2017 04:56 pm
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We spent today in Bruges. After breakfast on board, it didn't take long to disembark and drive to a car park Roger had previously identified, next door to the railway station, not excessively expensive and whose price includes a bus ticket in to the centre. In fact it's close enough to walk, and we ended up walking back - but that's another story. Anyway, we had a splendid time not doing any of the deeply cultural things people had recommended to us, just admiring the streets and the buildings and the many, many chocolate shops... I hope there'll be a post that relives that walk, when I get home and can sort out the photos. But for the time being, just two silly pictures: oh, all right, then, under a cut )

After that - but no, I said I'd save 'after that' for another post. Eventually we returned to retrieve our car, and it wasn't a long drive to Ghent, where we will spend the next few days.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Sitting in the bar of the Pride of Bruges, on the Humber, typing offline ready to post when I'm ready to claim my half hour of free wifi -

After a mad frenzy of packing and preparation, wrangling last minute client demands, topping up my mobile phone for the first time since I bought it several years ago (which we did at the big out-of-town Tesco, though next time - if we ever reach a next time - will be easier)... Well, yes, after everything else and setting off later than we meant to, a very pleasant and easy drive to Hull.

Roger (whom in another place you may know as durham_rambler, but who has not yet rambled to DreamWidth) had downloaded the Radio2 Folk Awards to his phone, so that we could listen to it through the car audio: I am so impressed at his mastery of the technology, and it worked very smoothly, apart from an interlude when his bluetooth hearing aids hijacked the signal, so I never heard Nick Lowe paying tribute to Ry Cooder, but we got it straightened out in time to hear Ry Cooder explaining how much he owed to Tom Paley, so that was all right.

And we had folk music (within Radio2's understanding thereof, but I enjoyed the interval sampling of the finalists for the Young Folk Award) driving through spring in northern England. The fields are very green, except where the rape is coming into bloom, where they are eye-searing yellow. The hedges are mostly green, though the blackthorn is a tattered lace of white. The verges are studded with yellow which surely can't be cowslips, not in those numbers? There's the odd clump of primroses. Remind me again why we are leaving England right now?

But of course if we were home,we'd be working, not going out enjoying all this. Likewise, in a properly organised world, we'd have taken time to sample the culture which Hull currently offers: instead, we headed straight for the ferry, drove on board with hardly any queueing, and here we are in the bar, I have had a cup of tea and the pianist is playing Name That Tunee' (we've just had Hotel California).

Later: Dinner in 'The Kitchen' buffet restaurant, and a bottle of La Sauvageonne, a Gerard Bertrand rosé, described on the menu as biodynamic and on the label as 'en conversion' (in the process of becoming organic): I have no idea whether these two things are compatible, but it was a pretty pale pink, maybe a touch sweeter than I would choose for drinking alone, but this gave it the weight to stand up to the various random items we selected from the buffet.

As the light faded from the sky, we watched Spurn Head slide away behind us.

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