Surfing the Sea

Since 1995

Day-Trip to Southend — Jun 24, 2020

Day-Trip to Southend

Southend beachfront

Summer has now well and truly arrived. A heatwave making the UK hotter than Ibiza made perfect weather for my latest outing to the beach in Southend-on-Sea.

Southend-on-Sea, or most popularly just called Southend, is a coastal town in the county of Essex, 40 miles from London – making it the closest seaside resort to the capital. Its pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world, stretching nearly two miles from the beach out to sea, and it is also home to the Adventure Island theme park, which is filled with rollercoasters, Ferris wheels and even bumper cars. (While the pier and park are usually packed with holidaygoers, on this occasion and due to the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19, it was totally empty – looking almost like it came out of a post-apocalyptic film.)

Southend Pier a mile out

Much to my surprise, the beach I went to was rather small, being only a little patch of sand and the sea taking up much of the space. There was also a natural lagoon formed out of a cove of large boulders filled with water from the sea constantly pounding nearby. Trying out the water in both, I found the actual sea was a tiny bit warmer than the water in the lagoon!

Because the beach was so small, high tide swallows it up entirely – small rocky slopes stop it coming up to dry land. As the afternoon went on, the sea started creeping up on our tiny patch of sand – and as we were leaving, it had already soaked several unlucky beachgoers’ belongings! 😱

While Southend may be the closest seaside town to London, it isn’t really much of a resort as say, Brighton or even Margate. It does have the aforementioned theme park and pier, but away from the sea, it may just look like any other town in England. Southend mostly stopped being a holiday destination from the 1960s onwards, due to the rise of holidays abroad in Spain and other more exotic locales, but it is home to many commuters who make their way to London every day for work. I’d say Southend is more for the people who actually live there, and if you want to really just relax on the beach, you’d probably be better off going to Brighton or Margate. They might be a bit more further afield, but the beaches are certainly bigger and better. πŸ–οΈπŸŒŠ

Southend sunset

Day-Trip to Margate 2020 — Jun 2, 2020

Day-Trip to Margate 2020

Margate beachfront

Summer has finally arrived, so I thought a day-trip to the beach just had to be in order! This time, I went to Margate. This is not the first time I’ve been there – I’ve been to Margate once or twice previously, but I did not have a dog at either of those times, so this one was a little bit different.

While dogs are obviously seen around town, they are not permitted on the main beaches of Margate between May and September, which is obviously the peak of the summer season. Luckily, there are plenty of other beaches nearby which do allow our four-legged friends, and one of them is Westbrook Bay, just to the west of the main shore. πŸ•πŸΆ

Westbrook Bay often has considerably less people than the main sands, which can be great for people who just want to relax on the beach or want to take their dog walking (or swimming!) However, there are quite a lot of rocks, especially at low tide, so you might want to take a pair of shoes for swimming in so that you don’t hurt or cut your feet. The rocks may look hard, but when hit hard enough, they crumble apart and reveal a chalky white interior, which turns the water milky.

On this particular occasion when I visited the beach, there was a lot of seaweed floating in the sea and on the rocks, which made getting to the sea itself a somewhat slippery experience. I even found a tiny jellyfish in a mound of seaweed, which luckily didn’t have a sting in it, but there are also crabs who can pinch you if you take a wrong step. The one in the photo below was already dead, so I didn’t have to worry about getting pinched, but some crab-catchers nearby did catch one or two live ones! πŸ¦€

As well as crabs, I also found lots of oysters, whelks and winkles. Whelks are large sea snails which are edible, and they are popular around the Kent coastal area, including the nearby town of Whitstable. Winkles are their smaller cousins, although they’re apparently just as tasty.

Whelk sea snail shells

Common periwinkle (winkle) snail

Returning from the bay, I had a small opportunity to see the main beaches, which were packed with seagoing crowds enjoying the early summer heat. There is even a pool on the beach which is filled with seawater, which is something that I’m definitely going to try out if I ever go back to Margate. On the train going back to London, I even caught a glimpse of Margate’s most famous landmark – the Dreamland amusement park, empty due to the ongoing pandemic (thankfully, restrictions are now being lifted, so it could be filled up again soon). 🎑🎒🎠

Margate Dreamland amusement park

Day-Trip to Oxford — Sep 24, 2019

Day-Trip to Oxford

I’ve been spending the weekend in Oxford! Well, not really the weekend – it was only for half a day – but it was still at the weekend.

Known the world over for its university, Oxford is older than the Aztec Empire. Its relative closeness to London (about an hour and a half by car) makes it perfect for a day-trip out to see the architecture that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. As expected for a university town, people come to see the university buildings, but its industries also range from publishing (the world-famous Oxford Dictionary of English is printed by the university press) to car manufacture.

Oxford Montage 2012
Oxford Montage 2012

Oxford was one of the few English cities to avoid the Blitz in World War II, though it was one of the main centres of evacuees fleeing from London, which suffered the most damage. In more recent years, mostly thanks to the university, Oxford is one of England’s most diverse small cities, with immigrants mostly from South Asia bringing their distinctive cuisine to the city’s restaurants. And I had food from immigrants when I first arrived in the city, with pizza. πŸ˜πŸ•

Because we had arrived rather late in the day (it was around 2pm when we got there), we didn’t spend much time in Oxford, but it was just enough to see the city centre and some of the attractions. The high street was bustling with markets, buskers and street performers, including a fiddler on a tightrope (sounds dangerous) and a saxophonist. Alongside all the modern chain stores and traffic, there was a lot of historical architecture – some dating back to the time of Elizabeth I. The historic Welsh College sits right in the middle of Oxford High Street.

At the end of the high street is a massive park, with what appears to be a traditional English country house and garden, and a church building. A willow and maple tree hanging over the river gave a Japanese-inspired flavour to the gardens. With the coming autumn, the climbing ivy turned a rich shade of scarlet, providing a dramatic contrast against the beige brick walls – perfect for a photo.

As I said before, we didn’t stay long in Oxford, but before we went back, I got to stop over at one of the markets on the high street, and added two more members to my ever-growing crystal family: a lapis lazuli teardrop and a white lace agate. (At least I think it’s lapis, it looks blue enough.)

I may have only been in Oxford for at least three hours, but it’s already attracted me with its big-city feel cosmopolitanism blended with small-town hospitality and closeness. To quote the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator films:

“I’ll be back, Oxford!”

Weekend-in-Oxford-featured

Weekend in Bristol — Jul 9, 2019

Weekend in Bristol

I have just returned from spending a weekend in Bristol! This vibrant port city on the west coast of England is famous for its rich history as a shipbuilding centre and its many engineering feats, and in more recent years for its art and music scene. I was mostly there to see my sister Melissa, who now lives there as part of her university education, but I did have a day to see some of the sights and sounds of Bristol.

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31 Awesome Things You Absolutely Must Do in Vancouver, BC — Sep 26, 2018

31 Awesome Things You Absolutely Must Do in Vancouver, BC

Little Grey Box

A city surrounded by water and mountains, Vancouver really is beautiful. As you drive around, it’s hard not to fall in love with the giant trees and green spaces, the awesome cafes and restaurants and the unique buzz of energy in the air. Giant street art murals and hipster spots are nestled next to historic buildings on cobblestone streets in Gastown and in North Vancouver, suspension bridges wrapped around ancient trees make for the perfect big-kid playground. It’s a fascinating mix of new-age culture and old-world beauty, offering visitors a whole world of fun and food to explore. To help you plan an amazing trip, here are our tips on 31 awesome things you absolutely must do in Vancouver, BC!

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