I don't know how school terms/semesters work in other countries, but here in England our academic year runs from early September through to late July and is divided into three terms (Autumn, Spring, Summer). Each term is split with a one week break which we call a Half Term holiday, and these weeks fall in October, February and May. I l-o-v-e the half term holidays, they provide such a welcome respite from the schedules and routines of school and arrive just at the point when you feel completely ready for them. This is especially true when you have children in the lower end of school, those little bodies and brains really do need the rest after six weeks of Big Learning.
We don't tend to have any set routines for our half terms weeks, sometimes we choose to go away but often we use the week for some serious rest, relaxation and home time, barely venturing out unless absolutely necessary. This week, we managed a combination of the two and on Monday we took ourselves off on a mini break! We went away for two days and one night which was just long enough to generate that holiday feeling without being too troublesome. You don't need to pack very much for a one night stay, just sling some pj's and a few clothes into a bag, pack a few toys/electronics, make sure everyone has coats and hats and off you go. Oh, and the other thing I did was to organise our food. Two days and one night away can be costly on the food/beverage/snack front for a family of five, so I made time to organise enough food for two picnic lunches, plus some essential snack material (cereal bars, fruit, chocolate biscuits, kinda healthy but not too much).
So on Monday morning, we drove across to the east coast of Yorkshire to visit the amazing building that you can see in the photo above. This is a modern "submarium" (a fancy name for a huge aquarium) called The Deep, built on the edge of the Humber Estuary in Hull.
The Deep is a fantastic modern aquarium which opened in 2002. It tells the story of the world's oceans through stunning marine life, interactive displays and audio-visual presentations making it "a fun-filled family day out for all ages." There are around 300 different species of marine life, with approximately 3,500 individual animals - yup, it's pretty big and there is a lot to see.
We've been to The Deep several times in the past when the Little People were small, but Little B had never been. During the past few months, both Little B and Little Lady have developed a fascination/mild obsession with sharks, and consequently there has been a considerable amount of talk/mild nagging about going to see some real live sharks swimming in some pretty huge tanks.
And the tanks here are huge, clear, light and very enjoyable to watch. My favourite tank has a huge display of living coral and a big light filled tropical lagoon teaming with shoals of brightly coloured fish. The fish are just soooo beautiful, and because the tank is very large you really get to see them move in the water.
There is a fascinating set of tanks dedicated to life at the bottom of the cold, deep, dark oceans, with the most amazing fish and marine life. These jelly fish tanks were especially mesmerising, the room is kept quite dark and the atmosphere is ever so slightly eerie. Little B just loved it in here and was so excited to see the jelly fish, he kept saying "WoW!", he just couldn't believe that he was seeing real jelly fish that usually live deep in the depths of the dark ocean.
The biggest tank at The Deep is a whopping 10m deep and 25m wide and is named "The Endless Ocean". It is huuuuuuuuuuuuge! You get to see right around this tank from various view points as you work your way round the exhibits, but there are two huge windows where you get to see the most action. The highlight of the day happens at 2pm when the divers enter the tank to hand feed the sharks, it really is amazing to watch. There are several varieties of shark in this tank (Nurse sharks, White Tip Reef sharks, Grey Reef sharks, Zebra sharks) as well as an impressively big Spotted Wobbegong and some beautiful large rays. But my bestest most favourite of all is the Sawfish (see a picture of one here), gosh they are incredible to watch.
There are two other ways to view the endless ocean tank, both of which we all really look forward to when we visit. The first is the glass viewing tunnel which runs through the tank itself - it's absolutely brilliant to spend a little time in here surrounded by the blue, light-filled water, watching the rays, sharks and fish swim all around. The second comes at the end of the visit when you get to take a ride in The Bubble Elevator, oh boy, there was sooo much excitement here from the Littlest Boy in our family! This is a short but very scenic ride in a glass lift, riding up through 10 metres of fishy wonderfulness - it really is a great way to end the tour of the Deep.
After all that excitement and a fair bit of walking, we were ready for a sit down and a rest. We had eaten a picnic lunch before arriving at The Deep (an in-car picnic, parked up by the grey/brown dock side in the pouring rain, in case you wish to imagine it), so this was just a bit of late afternoon refreshment. The cafe at The Deep is pretty great actually - if you scroll back up and have a quick look at the building, do you see the pointy glass bit? Well that's the Observatory Cafe. It's on the third floor with panoramic views of the Humber estuary and some waterside bits of Hull - on this day it was pretty wet, grey/brown and dull but it was still quite thrilling to be up so high. The above picture was taken from the outside viewing platform which has glass walls all around, I can tell you we weren't out here for long as it was blinkin' freezing, but it's one of those must-do things when we visit The Deep.
We left Hull at around 4pm, journeying further up the east coast to our accommodation for the night.....
.....this rather scenic 17th century watermill, 1.5 miles north of the seaside resort of Scarborough. This is Scarborough Youth Hostel, a rather humble, rustic little place to spend the night, but as with all youth hostels we've ever stayed in it has a hefty dose of charm. We absolutely love hostelling, and I can highly recommend it if you have children. Most hostels in the UK have family rooms which you can book online via the Youth Hostel Association website. You don't have to be a member to stay in YHA properties, just go online and book a room as you would a hotel. Some of the more updated/modernised hostels have family rooms with en-suite bathroom facilities (posh or what?!), but the cheaper more traditional ones all have shared bathrooms. The hostel at Scarborough is a weeny bit tired and the rooms are basic, but for us as a family of five it provided us with a pretty decent, affordable night's accommodation. And for our Little People (aged 12, 10 and 5), the bunk bed sleeping arrangements are pretty perfect and a definite added excitement of the stay.
We enjoyed a delicious pub meal conveniently located just five minutes walk from the hostel, then back to the hostel for an evening of board games in the lounge, followed by individual activities back at Bunk Bed Central (reading for J, hooky time for me, electronic gaming for Little Man, and various jumping/climbing/hide-and-seek/treasure hunting games for Little Lady and Little B).
We always eat breakfast when we stay in hostels, they are without fail mighty fine and also terrifically good value. The other neat thing about hostelling is the self catering kitchen, meaning you can take your own food and cook if you wish to. Although we didn't cook, we were able to make cups of tea and use the fridges to store food. This is a good way to keep costs down - I took bread rolls, cold meat, butter and salad so that I could make up a picnic to take with us for our day by the sea on Tuesday.
Oh, I had SO been looking forward to a day beside the sea, and on Tuesday we were gifted the most perfect seaside weather, it was heavenly!!!
Scarborough is a traditional British holiday resort, established initially as a Spa town in the 15th century, going on to become Britain's first proper seaside resort in the 16th century. It reached it's peak of popularity in Victorian times when a railway link was established and the famous Grand Hotel was completed (it was one of the largest hotels in the world at that time, and one of the first giant purpose-built hotels in Europe).
Scarborough seaside is split into two halves - North Bay and South Bay. On Tuesday we started our day at North Bay which is a beautiful expanse of unspoilt beach and promenade. It was low tide when we arrived which was fortunate as at high tide the sea literally comes right up to the sea wall and the beach completely disappears. I couldn't wait to get down onto the sand and walk along the shore, I think I may have been a weeny bit over excited.....♪♫♪♫ beside myself with glee even...........♪♫♪♫
.....oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea.....♪♫♪♫(are you singing along?!)
I honestly can't believe that I managed to rally the whole family into this ridiculous pose for a shadow photo, it really made me laugh to do this! Look - even J did as he was told!!!!! Haha!!
It was around 10 o'clock in the morning and the large beach was pretty quiet.
There wasn't really anything in the way of beach treasure to be found here, but I did enjoy the sandy ripples and loved thinking about the fact that this beach would be under the sea again in a few hours time.
Little B scampered around the beach like a puppy, writing his name in the sand and sticking his fingers into it to see what it felt like.
He begged me to take a picture of his sandy finger (like you do), so I happily obliged. One sandy little five year old finger, to remind us of this happy beach morning.
One of the great things about getting away from home for a mini break is the concentrated family time it grants. When we're at home, the Little People are more and more choosing to be off in their own private bedroom worlds these days, most especially our rapidly maturing 12 year old. He is a quiet boy, good natured and thoughtful, but quiet. It was a joy to spend time with him whilst we were away, to chat with him and to see him play so naturally with his Little Sister and Little Brother.
It was such a glorious morning, I drank all that clear blue into my soul and felt my heart soar.
We were strolling slowly along beside the sea, heading vaguely towards the Sealife centre building, when I spotted the rows of beach huts. My heart flipped and I immediately turned my back to the sea and shouted to the family that I needed to go and take a closer look.
It was as if I was being pulled by a magnetic force, I could not help myself as I was drawn by the power of all this glorious colour!
Oh, these beach huts are absolute perfection!
Row upon row of beautiful little painted wooden houses with sea views, the sight of them made me feel ridiculously happy. These huts are all privately owned (could be yours if you've got £35K to spare), but many are available to rent for a day or a week at a time. Inside they are quite basic, but very appealing (you can see a picture of one here).
Oh the colours - yum, yum, yummmm!!!
My family were very good and indulged me for quite a while here as I raced up and down exclaiming and taking a gazillion photos from every possible angle. I was most certainly in my own personal happy place :)
After all that emotional colour excitement, I was suddenly in desperate need of a calm down and possibly a mug of frothy coffee, so we wandered back along the north promenade in search of a cafe. The glorious sunshine meant that we could sit outside quite comfortably, which was such a treat for February. I really enjoyed my cappuccino sat here in the sun with a delicious sea view, I think happy vibes must've been radiating out of my entire body actually, well that's what it felt like!
After coffee/juice/chocolate ice cream, we jumped back into the car and drove along Marine Drive, heading round the sticky-out bit of rocky cliff with it's ruined castle perched in top. We were heading for South Bay now, to the busier more touristy side of Scarborough. The harbour here is lined with a bustling array of gift shops, fast food establishments, cafes, pubs, amusement arcades and tourist entertainments. It's not exactly pretty but there is a brash kind of energy here which I quite like. And besides, even if it's not exactly the Nice Kind of Unspoilt Seaside that I prefer, it's simply a case of turning around and focusing on the lovely boat filled harbour instead.
Scarborough harbour (how many times did we say this, just for the fun effect of playing with the words?!) is a big affair and there is still an active fishing industry operating here, although nothing like it used to be in the Olden Days.
I found out today that the harbour actually has three piers (East Pier, West Pier and Middle Pier, each connected by little foot bridges), it's hard to get this when you're down at sea level pottering about but makes sense when you see it on a map. I was delighted to see this old lighthouse sitting prettily at the end of the middle pier.
We sat a while on a bench beside the lighthouse to take in the views, it was bright and breezy and just lovely to be sat there on a Tuesday morning. Just beside the lighthouse is this wonderful metal statue entitled "The Diving Belle". I absolutely loved it, the simplicity of it and the tense, impossible balance of the figure, it really did seem as if she was just about to dive off into the sea.
If you've been reading my blurb here in the Attic for a while, you will be very familiar with my love of harbours and fishing boats. I love the bright colours and the gentle hustle and bustle of harbours very much, and Scarborough harbour was very lovely indeed on this bright sunshiny Winter's day.
Before we said goodbye to the harbour side, we made a necessary visit to the One Stop Rock Shop, which wasn't really a shop at all but a teeny little wooden shack next to the piles of crabbing pots. All three Little People were fairly desperate for a stick of rock to sink their teeth into - I personally don't understand the attraction of yucky, sticky, rock hard, overly sweet, touristy confectionery, eugh, give me a slab of plain chocolate any day. But the kiddos love the stuff so they each chose one small stick each and they were pleasingly thrilled with it I have to say.
After the Rock Stop, we had a family split up. The boys had had enough of promenading and retreated back to the warmth of the car, whilst Little Lady and I took to the narrow, winding streets of Scarborough Old Town to do a little bit of exploring. I love love love wandering around old places like this, with their crumbly old buildings, oddly named little passageways and wiggly cobbled streets. We didn't know where we were going, but we simply headed upwards.......
.......emerging high above the old town......
.....with lovely views of the harbour and sea below. From here, it was fairly easy to find our way back down a steep flight of steps to the promenade and our warm car waiting.
For lunch, we decided on a whim to head out of Scarborough and drove seven miles down the coast to the nearby town of Filey. We used to come to Filey often when we lived in York (it was our closest seaside then), and have fond memories of the place. We visited before we became parents (I have a vivid memory of being heavily pregnant here, I'll spare you the details), and many times when the Little People were babies and weeny tots. They of course didn't remember it, but it was really lovely for J and I to reminisce about old times and recall those almost forgotten days with very small people in tow.
The above shelter is at the bottom end of a large park and is positioned to look out to sea....
....it made the perfect spot for us to have our first picnic of the year. I really love Winter picnics, we have often eaten lunch like this over the years, wrapped up against the cold in some shelter or other. There was pastrami in the little sandwiches, gosh I love that stuff mmm-mmmm, making me hungry just thinking about it!
After lunch, we continued to walk.....
....away from the park and out onto the cliff tops. Well, they aren't exactly cliffs in the open-topped sense, more a series of grassy slopes with pathways and stepped terraces between the run of hotels at the top and the promenade at the bottom.
There are many houses and small hotels jumbled along the cliff side here, and there is a quiet, genteel feel to the place. I like it very much.
We spent the afternoon pootling along the promenade, doing what folk have done for centuries - taking in the views and breathing in the sea air. I just love the whole idea of Promenading as a pastime, I think it is a really simple, pleasurable thing to do. I've just been reading about the history of "seaside resorts" on Wikipedia, it's fascinating thinking of the families that have promenaded along our coastline for pleasure and recreation over the centuries. Long may it continue.
ps this is a super-long blog post I know, well done if you've landed at the end and are still awake! I love writing about our holidays and outings as a way of preserving memories for the Little People as well as myself. Thanks as always for for reading and sharing x