Coming back from Aldeburgh is a slightly strange experience. It is only 1.5 hours away by car, but it feels almost like stepping from one life into another. So close, yet so far. A different way of life entirely. It struck me, on our last full day, as I wandered along the seafront to the baker to buy croissants, that this tiny coastal town has so many more amenities than the city in which I live. There is the aforementioned bakers, who do the most wonderful croissants, which sell out so quickly you are wise to order them the day before if you want to be certain of getting any. Lawson’s is a delicatessen where I fell in love with a delicious ‘happy carrot salad’. We bought home some bacon from Salter’s, the butchers, as it is such good quality. There is such an array of hotels offering morning coffee or afternoon tea, just ready and waiting to welcome you in.
There are certain charms that Aldeburgh holds, that I would never expect home to be able to compete with. Our little city can’t possibly also be the seaside, and there can only be one iconic shorline scallop sculpture. I wouldn’t expect to walk down our city streets to be lined with delightfully named quaint little cottages.
But….although it isn’t all about shopping, wouldn’t you expect that in a city, we would have a proper butcher, a baker, a deli? I don’t want to sound snobbish – we do after all have a Gregg’s and there is a butcher in the market – and we boast two Marks and Spencers – but it isn’t the same.
Apart from the beautiful, beautiful pebbley beach and crashing waves, I will miss the simple shopping pleasures for daily provisions. But I always find, that whatever I might find lacking when I return home to the city in which we live, the peace of Aldeburgh always comes back with me. And our own little home isn’t lacking in pleasure or charm for me at all. As much as I enjoy our stay in the little blue cottage, there is something blissful about home.
And so I am sitting, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, slightly perturbed by the influx of teenagers in very short shorts and wellies (it is V weekend), but looking back and smiling on a week of adventures by the sea.
Spotting none other than Ben Wishaw in the queue in the fish and chip shop on our first night. Walking along the shore to the next village, Thorpeness. Rowing on the lake there in a little yellow boat. Climbing to the very top of Orford Castle, the wind whipping my hair about my head and my skirt about my legs. Afternoon tea at the Cragg Sisters, with chocolate cake too big and chocolatey to finish, even with a second pot of tea. Sitting on the beach, the pebbles warmed by the sun and the waves splashing at our feet. Walking on the pier at Southwold. A happy hour spent browsing in the independent book shop at Aldeburgh. And then another spent in the second hand bookshop, just further down the street.
But best of all, just slipping into a different world for a bit. Having time to wander and ponder, and soak up the scenery. Smiling at the names of the cottages – my favourite was ‘Half Past Six Cottage’ – and all the efforts that have been put in to making them look beautiful. Window boxes of lavender, hanging baskets swinging in the breeze, a door knocker in the shape of a crab.
Suffice to say, we had a lovely time. I think in busy moments it will help to remember that all that is just 1.5 hours away.