I was super excited when I woke up on the first Saturday of our recent trip to England and Scotland. I was to go on pilgrimage. As a matter of fact, both Kristof and I did a little pilgrimage. His concerned whisky, later when we went to Islay in Scotland, mine literature.
My friend Elly took us to Haworth, to the parsonage where the Brönte family used to live. I have been a Brönte sister fan since I was 17, so this was my Holy Grail this trip. Charlotte, Anne and Emily, somehow they could have been my sisters. I used to imagine myself rambling the dark and gloomy moors with Heathcliff and Mr Rochester. God, how horribly romantic of my younger me.
I prepared my pilgrimage very well: I read some of the Brönte books again and I read Elisabeth Gaskell’s extensive biography about Charlotte Brontë and her sisters. Which -I must say- was sometimes hard to read because it is incredibly detailed, but it was worth the effort. So I travelled to England, having very high expectations.
Elly took us to Haworth by steam train, which was an excellent idea of her. We took the train in Keighley in some Harry Potter like railway station, which increased my literary experience even more. The train was adorable: old benches, wood … It felt far more luxurious than the rubbish modern trains we took during the rest of our trip. It’s great that the volunteers of of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society keep this lovely train running.
When you arrive in Haworth, it takes a little walk to get to the centre and the parsonage which leads you through the local Central Park. The main street in Haworth is very touristy and if the Brontës can be used as a marketing tool, shops won’t hesitate, as you can see below. As Virginia Woolf already remarked in 1904 in The Guardian: “Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth; they fit like a snail to its shell.”
And yet, Haworth has a lot of lovely artsy, retro and nice shops and cafés. I bought a really nice Alice in Wonderland card, probably because I was in an fairytale magic kind if mood.
We walked up to the church where father Patrick Brönte was curate and where the Brönte family has been buried (except for Anne, who has been buried in Scarborough. She died there in 1849 hoping a stay at the east coast would improve her health).
In the Brontë Parsonage Museum my favourite was the dining room where the sisters wrote and discussed their books. In my head a voice was screaming: “Om my God, Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre there!” I just could see them sitting there, all together there, in the evening, talking and writing ….
We also saw their father’s study, the bedroom, kitchen… As Charlotte was already a famous writer at the time of her death, the museum has obtained some of her belongings as people kept those. Anne, Emily and Branwell died before they were famous.
We were not allowed to take pictures unfortunately. I bought a book about Charlotte and Emily living in Brussels, so I think I will spend some lunch breaks continuing my pilgrimage. Apparently there is even a Brussels Brontë group that does research and organises activities.
Elly took us to Leeds as well. A lovely town, with lovely shopping arcades. Alas there wasn’t much time for shopping. I also loved the library.
We had a proper Sunday roast at the Adelphi as we never had one before. With crackling. James Martin would be proud of us. I loved the crackling and the Sunday roast was great. Kristof and I don’t agree about the concept of Yorkshire pudding. I thought it was okay, Kristof thought it was superfluous. But we both agreed that it wasn’t as special as we believed after seeing many episodes of Saturdag Kitchen. I bet James Martin will be less proud of us now 😉
The Adelphi is a a very nice pub. Kristof had a proper hipster beer there, Smog Rocket. This beer should ‘remind people of the smoke stacks of industrial London’. He liked the beer a lot, but couldn’t get his head round the fact that he got canned beer, which remains a mortal sin for most Belgians.
We started our trip in Manchester. We were very lucky to have taken a prepaid taxi. The guy at the desk copied the address incorrectly, so we got to see far more of the Mancunian suburbs than we had planned. I was like: this doesn’t really look as the hipster part, does it? But we ended eventually up in the Northern Quarter as we were supposed to.
We stayed at the Abel Heywood Boutique Hotel which pleased us a lot. Abel Heywood was a Victorian mayor, and the Mancunian publisher of The Poor Man’s Guardian and even some local travel guides. The hotel provided us with an off the beaten track travel guide of Manchester. The rooms have a huge picture of Manchester by night and is a mix of industrial and boutique. The bed was awesome. I loved the tiles in the bathroom as well.
Manchester seems a lovely place, but they are refurbishing the whole town it seems (for the metro I think). We did like the neighbourhood of our hotel a lot. The Northern Quarter is the place to be thesedays. There is a nice vibe, cool street art and nice places to eat. I just followed the recommomendations of Adam, Elly’s friend and they were great! We had dinner in TNQ, which was great. I loved the the asparagus veloute as well as the sticky toffee pudding, another British classic I had never tried before.
For breakfast, we went to Home sweet home. I tried something really weird: sweet waffles with bacon and blueberries. I must admit it was much nicer than I had thought 🙂 And I had a fabulous Oreo milkshake.