Milestone birthdays can be hard to get your head round and turning 50 definitely packs a punch. And so far I love it!
I always celebrate birthdays, even if I don’t do anything in particular. In northern hemisphere terms I was a spring baby, my favourite season. Depending on where I am in the world, there’s a good chance of a bright day.
Now although it’s my birthday today it’s not my Big 50. That’s been and gone. But as I’m doing the rounds with hospital treatments right now I’m not too bothered about getting out and about today. So instead I’m looking back on one of my best birthdays ever. Turning 50 was magic!
50 – HOW DID THAT HAPPEN
The year I’m writing about here was a Big Birthday, though it hardly seems any time since 40. I was born in 1966 which makes me 52 this time around, thus my sixth decade has truly begun.
Money being tight, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see it in in New York as hoped. That said I didn’t want it to go unmarked. So why not spend it where I came into the world (albeit twenty-five miles eastwards)? We could certainly stretch to a weekend to North Berwick and fill it with things we love – good food, sea air and walks on the beach. And, of course, the Bass Rock.
Prepare for a photofest and enjoy our weekend out east.
At No 12 Quality Street where my father kindly treated us to a couple of nights on him. A cosy B&B in North Berwick, I put in a special request for a room with a view of the Bass Rock and arrived to find a bottle of champagne, two glasses and a box of chocolates waiting for us. Hmmm… methinks Pops had a hand in that! It was lovely that the hotel organised everything and we loved our large and airy room, as well as the artwork in it.
I’ve stayed here a few times and always enjoyed being right in the centre of town. It’s a three-minute walk from the harbour and the beach, which is handy for getting out early to photograph the dawn. Since I first stayed it’s changed hands and benefited from a brightening lick of paint, a tartan carpet and some colourful prints of the town by artist Rob Hain.
Not too exorbitantly priced and a good base if you’re planning to be out and about. I’m definitely planning to come back for a couple of days later in the year to do some artwork around town.
- Trying dinner at the restaurant, Signals Bistro. Starter-wise the soup of the day is always vegetarian and there’s always a decent veggie main course (variable menus).
- Visiting off-season when prices are lower and it’s quieter.
- Booking a room at the front as you’ll hear the clock on Quality Street chime the hour. And it’s a lovely view if you fancy sketching. Particularly pretty when the Christmas lights are up.
At Cucina Amore, also on Quality Street. We’ve been here many times and it never disappoints. It’s a friendly, fairly new establishment and always full. Many years ago a Luca’s cafe stood on this site (my mum had a job there for a while) – how time moves along!
Although I’m a vegetarian (and occasional vegan), I rarely pass by a “normal” restaurant if it’s a good one. These days vegetarians (at least) can eat almost everywhere, which is handy if there’s a carnivore in your life.
I’m not big one for puddings and hardly ever order dessert. But I could hardly say no when Stephen and a few of the staff appeared with a slice of cake with a candle for me to blow out. A thoughtful way to round off my birthday and with Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday playing too! It was time to make a wish.
Bravo e buon cumpleanno a me!
- Veggie-friendly starters Focaccia al Bruschetta and Insalata Caprese.
- The Risotto al Limone (they were happy to tailor it for me, leaving out the prawns).
- Fab coffee – it is an Italian restaurant, after all!
On the way into North Berwick we popped into Fenton Barns which is home to some great independent shops, a lovely cafe and a fantastic gallery Hangar Framing. I’d been keen to see the work of Fee Dickson, whose work I’d discovered via Facebook. We loved her fabulous big seascapes, the soft colours dissolving into each other and the way she captures the light on the beach and the sea islands. It’s always interesting to see artists’ interpretations of places and scenes you know so well and/or paint yourself.
Luckily Fee’s show coincided with my birthday (or vice versa!). Aaah, the joys of FB! It is very good for lots of things, such as discovering new art and the people who create it. 🙂
It’s been many years since I’ve been around the various spots in East Lothian rather than just heading to the seaside. As a child my grandparents and I would go for “runs” in the car so I got to know the area down to the Borders fairly well. My granny would invariably see a house she’d want to move to then we’d head back to our seaside view.
So it’s strange to encounter familiar places forty-five years late and find that I remember them as well as I ever did. Such as the absolutely huge open Bellhaven beach near Dunbar, a popular spot with windsurfers, horse riders and mad wifeys celebrating big birthdays. Wow! And wouldn’t it be a great venue for a yoga class (as long as the tide’s out!)?
Earlier in the day we visited another wonderful beach at Seacliff, just before Tantallon Castle (see below). You do have to pay a pound to go onto it, but it’s well worth it. As you can see at the top of the page it’s popular for horse riding and with all the wonderful weathered rocks and cliffs there can’t be a more inspirational spot to draw.
WHAT WE MISSED
Here’s Stephen atop a cliff with a view of Tantallon Castle. Commanding a view of the Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth, you’d pay a pretty penny for it today. If its walls could speak you’d be treated to a good few chapters of Scottish (and some English) history.
If, like me, you’re into good, long walks there are worse ways to stretch your legs than head out of town along a straight bit of road till the castle looms to your left. You’ll also see the Bass Rock and see it change shape as you walk. (This is the great thing about drawing and painting the islands that I discussed with Fee – they change shape as you walk along the beach, so you can always be sure of a different view to capture.)
I’m already thinking of an artist visit on a bright blue day.
AND THEN I GOT STUCK UP A ROCK!
You know those kids who climb trees? Well, who needs them when you can climb to the top of a huge rock on the beach (and yes, I did climb trees too!)? And why should turning 50 make me stop?
Throughout much of childhood my mum would express minor disappointment that she had a tomboy. In fact, one of my more embarrassing parental memories is when she called to me to come and put my “little pink dress on” in front of my pals (all boys at that time!). Over the years I’ve become very partial to frocks, especially in red or green, but try stopping me scaling heights.
The view from the top is glorious and the rock itself features in a few of my sketches and paintings. There’s a wonderful view towards the Bass Rock and out across the Firth of Forth towards Fife. No doubt in a forthcoming post I’ll write about painting the Bass and why I’m so drawn to doing so.
But for now it’s a very belated Happy Big 5-0 to me – and does anyone know the way down?
Do you enjoy celebrating birthdays? Let me know in the comment section.
* The views expressed are totally my own and are not part of a sponsored post.