Sunday, 23 August 2015

Dreaming of Vacation

The first week back to work and teaching is under my belt, and it is hard not to let my thoughts stray back to the summer vacation. It's 26C (79F) most days, the sun is shining in a gorgeous blue sky, and my mind keeps saying, "Yes, still feels like summer!"

Bateman's - Rudyard Kipling's former home
The vacation was much needed after a hectic semester, and being able to relax and put my mind to other things than comma rules, infinitives, or the continuous tense was, in a word, bliss. Not that the vacation was all sleeping in until 11 and long afternoons in the sun: there was moving into a new place, assembling Ikea furniture, and realising that I really do have more things that I had imagined. But once the move was made, it was off on the road!

Highclere Castle
 The first few weeks of the vacation were spent on the English south coast. I managed to fit in some research for a writing project in between sightseeing and getting my fill of pub lunches. There was camping involved, which, after nearly 15 years of avoiding, was a slight shock to the system. Getting in and out of a tent (and up and down off the ground, for that matter) seemed much simpler 15 years ago... The rain chased us out of that idea, and I was left with the thought, "Well, we did try at least." Seeing Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's former home, and Greenway, Agatha Christie's former home, were probably the two highlights of the trip. I also really enjoyed seeing Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed. Before I knew it, two weeks had passed, and it was goodbye pub grub and access to shortbread. I stocked up on the necessities like shortbread, tea, and Boots products before leaving. Can you believe that shortbread is nigh impossible to find in Groningen!?

Himmelbjerget, Denmark
The second half of the vacation was spent in Denmark. I retreat to Scandinavia most summers, though often to Sweden, so it was nice to see more of a country I'd only been to a few times. I stayed in Jutland (called the real Denmark by those there - "Copenhagen" is like a swear word and involves eye rolling when said...). Jutland is beautiful in many ways: rolling hills of wheat that move north to dark pine forests and long white sand beaches. Århus and Ålborg are wonderfully Scandinavian cities in which to lose oneself, with lots of cute cafes and trendy places to shop. I was astonished to learn that the entire population of Denmark is about a third of the Netherlands. In fact, I shouldn't be writing about how wonderful the country is; I should be saying it's awful so that it doesn't become overcrowded!

While the cities were interesting, as were the bunkers from WWII and their history, it was the nature that captured my attention. The beaches of the north specifically caught my eye. It felt remote and wild in some ways, which I liked. The pine forests and white sand reminded me fondly of Terschelling, and it felt like coming home. Skagen (pronounced "Skain") was particularly beautiful, and I very much enjoyed standing at the top tip of Denmark where the two seas meet. Its wild landscape was once a haven for artists, and seeing the most famous paintings of that time (1890s) collected in a gallery there was such a delight. The paintings reminded me of the Cornish painters of the Newlyn school ilk. Some of my favourites were by P.S. Krøyer.

Viking site: Lindholm Høje
Den Tilsandede Kirke
Unlike in England, the weather was gorgeous everyday, and the trip became a glorious mix of museums and culture, such as visiting Viking sites like Lindholm Høje, Aggersborg or Fyrkat, eating good food, and soaking up the sunshine in pristine nature. Skagen was certainly a highlight, as was seeing Den Tilsandede Kirke (the Sanded Church). The north of Denmark really is a place to lose oneself in beautiful landscapes and history.

It was a wonderful holiday away, and now, I must do my best to focus on work. However, the memories of the holiday will keep me going until the next time I can hit the road!