A month ago I arranged to meet with a friend for lunch. Honestly, we arranged it two months ago but things kept happening and the universe seemed to be conspiring to stop it happening. But we succeeded on the fifth attempt - even though the Metro service tried to scupper us! Hmm, maybe I'm personalising events a bit much there.
We arranged to meet in a cafe in Whitley Bay that I'd walked past before and stared in the window. It looked good. Cosy, reasonably quiet and with a decent menu. I wanted to try it but I've been getting less willing to spend money on a lunch on my own when half an hour away there is lunch at home.
I arrived from the half-functional Metro at Monkseaton and it began to rain. Heavily. Really heavily. But I only had minutes to get to the cafe so there was no choice but to get wet. Just as I arrived at the cafe it stopped raining. And the sun came out. It then turned out that my friend was more delayed by the Metro than I had been - she had come up from Sunderland - so was late. If I'd known all those things I'd have stayed dry.
The cafe. Pulp Fiction Future Food. It turned out to be a good choice. I will gladly recommend it to anyone - unless you think that meat is an essential part of your meal. In which case steer clear. There are no pieces of corpse on the menu. I'd also not recommend it for anyone afraid of dogs. Having to share the toilet with a large dog is not a suitable experience for anyone with such a phobia. I'm not sure it's really a suitable experience for a cafe at all but at least the dog didn't cause any problems or want to be fussed over when I was sitting on the loo.
There was music playing in the cafe but it wasn't loud. My senses weren't doing well though and I had to ask for it to be turned down. The staff were pleased to do that and the music from then was really soft and not intrusive. I'm slowly learning that it's okay to ask for music to be turned down if I can't cope with it rather than suffering through it. And that it's okay to just walk out if it's too much. For all my life I've just put up with music in cafes at whatever volume. Which has meant I've very often not been able to enjoy either the company I've been with or the food I've been eating because the noise is too overpowering. Yay for a touch of sensory processing disorder. But at least I know my hearing is fine - I had it tested today too to pass the time while waiting for something else.
We ordered from the special dishes that day. My friend wasn't that hungry so had the soup. Purple sprouting broccoli and some other such vegetable. It looked really good even though it contained broccoli which is one of my pet hates. I always had the theory that there was no broccoli in the Garden of Eden and it was part of the curse God put on Adam and Eve after the Fall but some evil broccoli loving scribe had removed it from the text. As theories go, there aren't many with less truth in them than that one. But people believe things that are just as crazy and will vigorously defend such things as the Queen being a reptile or there being a Nazi base on the dark side of the moon. Well, it's obvious to them isn't it?
I ordered the Moroccan tagine dish with a healthy order of couscous. I think it cost £4.50. And it was delicious. Very good indeed. For drinks we each had one of their range of teas and my tea was lovely too.
Blob Thing came too. And he had a marvellous time. Couldn't keep the smile off his face. I'll warn you in advance. He may be getting his very own blog post soon from his adventure near Morpeth.
We left the cafe and wandered into Whitley Bay to explore something we both like: Charity Shops. Whitley Bay has quite a lot of them. For a few years after moving here I didn't know about half of them because they are on a couple of streets that I hadn't explored. The day I accidentally found them was a happy one, only made sad by the fact that I was on my way somewhere and didn't have time to venture into any of them. I have remedied that quite often since. A pleasant day out for me is to take the Metro to Tynemouth, walk to the Tyne estuary and then up the coast along the promenade and beaches - and rocks if it's low tide - past Cullercoats to Whitley Bay. Then eat lunch, visit every charity shop and head for home. It's a good day. I must post photos of the walk sometime.
There are also plenty of good independent shops in Whitley Bay. It's worth exploring if you want something that you wouldn't see in a shopping mall. If you find the range of shops in the Metro Centre or the Arndale Centre dull then you might like the ones in Whitley Bay. These are the cards in one window. I can't remember why I took the picture - possibly to inspire myself with some art. But that hasn't worked!
And then, before we left for home, joy. Oh what joy shall fill my heart. We were passing a sweet shop, Bay Sweets and Gifts, and I happened to take a look at the window and I saw it. And my heart leaped in happiness. I saw Zout. Yes, Zout.
Zout is a type of liquorice. It's gorgeous. I had to go in and buy some. And then to my deeper joy I learned that the shop didn't just sell Zout. It sells maybe two dozen different kinds of liquorice from the continent including several kinds of salt liquorice. I bought lots and since the Zout box was empty I asked for the box. Even better, it's not expensive. I've seen salt liquorice for sale in a few places - a shop in Brighton and at least two stalls in Bury market sell it. But every time it's been on sale for £1.99 for 100 grams. In this shop prices ranged from 95p to £1.35. The most expensive is the Zout, but it's worth it - and satisfies for much longer than a chocolate bar of the same price.
I've had to go back to the shop in the month since. I took all my liquorice to Manchester and ate lots with Amanda, leaving the remainder with her. I went back for myself to replenish my stocks - and got a second box. And then Amanda put in an order for some more so I've been back again. They're really friendly there, sell lots of other good sweets too, and I'm happy to pay their prices. They must be making enough profit to make the shop worthwhile, so the other places must have a massive mark up to charge as much as they do.
Yes. I recommend Whitley Bay as somewhere to explore - visit the beaches, buy ice cream, enjoy the cafes, spend time in the varied shops, and of course eat liquorice. Unless you hate the stuff. It's strange, but some people can't stand it.