Saturday, 18 October 2008

Aberlady Bay, Storms and Cake

“There will be less sand when we get to the beach.”

Of all the “it made sense at the time” moments in my life, this is my new favourite. I have tried to slot it into the full context of our adventure, but I don’t think I will ever do the moment justice.
Today’s escapade took in the Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve, which looks out to the Forth Estuary. We abandoned the village of Aberlady itself immediately after discovering that there is not a single café in town.
As we approached the long narrow bridge at the entrance of the reserve, the first flocks of geese flew overhead toward the place where the low tide was sucking at the expanse of the mudflats. Flock after flock rose from beyond the horizon and passed us, the sound of their honking bouncing inside the crooked Vs like pin balls. It was all so beautiful I couldn’t stop smiling and the cold wind made my teeth hurt.
The trail weaved some way off the shore, through grassland and then there appeared the most glorious woodland tunnel, a tunnel cut of out of the interlocking braches of dense growing trees and willows. I adored this place as it included so many of the things I yearn for at this time of year: dried leaves underfoot, erotic, deep shadows, creaking braches, mysterious rustlings from deep inside the surrounding thicket. I would love to spend my Halloween inside this broody cavern.

Outside again the light erupted from the hills to the right, but to the left loomed a bruised bank of cloud above the estuary. I was rushing about, so enthralled with taking photos that I didn’t really register that the storm would soon be upon us. Even though Craig was more prepared for this inevitability (he had his umbrella out and ready), neither of us imagined the lashing we then received. Laughing maniacally and running toward the only bit of shelter I could see - a small bank of shrubs, I had to hold my umbrella open as the wind and rain thundered against it. Within seconds we were soaking wet but having gone too far to turn back, trudged uncomfortably onwards.
Within minutes however the rain had stopped and soon the sun was out, just in time to see us through the sand dunes and over the crest of a hill toward the sea. The approach to the shore involved a descent down a steep path of loose sand that the wind seemed content to whip into our faces. I turned my back to the wind and started to walk down the hill backwards, but just before I did I mindlessly said the above fateful quote to Craig. By the time I stepped onto the packed sand of the beach, Craig had already been rolling the phrase around in his mind and was deeply amused.
We walked along the beach and I struggled to decide where to look. Toward the water and the waves, or to the bank on the other side where the wind was blowing the long grasses in mesmerizing, rhythmic waves. Before we left the beach we saw a peregrine falcon hovering against the wind and occasionally emiting a rapid flutter of wings, all the while peering ceaselessly into the grass, searching for prey.

Our plan was to follow the path to Gullane Point and onto Gullane itself, but we got slightly lost and ended up walking through a huge golf course. “This is the second biggest golf course I’ve ever walked through,” said Craig, as I repeated my fear of being struck in the face by a golf ball.
Finally, just as a new bank of cloud arrived overhead and began to belt new drops down upon us, we found Gullane. The sign above the first shop we spotted contained a most welcome word: delicatessen. I bought black olive paste with chocolate (I haven’t tried it yet but it seemed too beautifully bizarre to resist) and Craig bought treacle oat biscuits (lovely).
But then. THEN. Then we walked down the street and there it was. Falko, one of the finest bakeries in Edinburgh. With a location in Gullane! Who knew?! We had just walked for miles, been thrashed by wind and rain, and here at the end of our fascinating ordeal is a German bakery and cake shop. I was so excited I ran into traffic. Okay, it was only one small car and it was going pretty slow, but still. I had the Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte while Craig enjoyed plum and chestnut cake. They even served “milky coffee,” which is something I remember from childhood visits to Germany. It is a small amount of coffee topped up with steamed milk. “Kinder Kaffee” my great grandmother had called it. I remember feeling special to be allowed to be involved in the event that is afternoon coffee and cake.
There is so much more but these are the highlights I can recall at the moment. My favourite day out so far. Sun, sand sea. Mother Nature presenting a divine, changeable world so beautiful that all I can do is laugh into the wind while the same three words tumble around in my head: I love you I love you I love you.


Anonymous said...

that is beautiful, captured perfectly (i imagine). paths under trees are my favorite.

C.S. Perry said...

Man. I've REALLY got to start traveling.