Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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It’s Day 13 of my 30-day pledge to eat vegan during Veganuary to save the planet. After last night’s vegan feast with weird ingredients, I’m back in the land of normal with a twist. I’m in Northumberland on Hadrian’s Wall. How’s it like being vegan when you travel and stay at a typical British inn far from big cities?
As every Saturday, breakfast comes late because we start the day by heading to Hyde Park for the Saturday morning races. Except we’re not doing the race. My husband is joining Elina on her cold water swimming crusade to raise funds for the homeless. After our swim, I simply have two cups of breakfast tea (no milk) and we make our way to Kings Cross train station.
Before boarding the Flying Scotsman (such a great name), we stop at a tiny Pret a Manger, a British sandwich chain that has completely understood how good Veganuary is for business. They offer fun vegan options that are a lot more exciting than a lot of fast food chains. They even have a vegan breakfast range.
This is their acai and almond butter bowl, described as “delicious layers of fresh banana, gluten-free granola (made with almonds and hazelnuts) and acai berry puree, topped with shredded apple, juicy pomegranate seeds and almond butter.” It’s quite nice and unusual, the flavors varying from sour to sweet and it’s certainly not boring. Well done, Pret a Manger. Top marks on a creative breakfast recipe.
Because I’m a squirrel, I’ve also packed my own almond butter/wild plum jam sandwiches. After the breakfast bowl, I’m not that hungry anymore and only eat one. Truth be told, it doesn’t look appetizing.
It’s a long way to get to Hadrian’s Wall from London. We get off the Flying Scotsman at Newcastle around noon and board another small vintage train to Heydon Bridge.
It’s now lunch time. If this looks uninspired, it’s because it is. The wrap is an avocado and chipotle chickpeas salad wrap from Pret a Manger and I don’t care much for it. I find it a bit too sweet. The potato chips are good and satisfyingly salty. I was passing by the dining car, I saw a bag of potato chips, I acted on impulse. No regrets.
From Heydon Bridge, it’s a short taxi ride to the iconic Twice Brewed Inn right by Hadrian’s Wall. This inn, popular with hikers, derives its name from several stories. The most romantic story has it that on the eve of the Battle of Hexham in 1464, Yorkist foot soldiers demanded their beer be brewed again because it lacked its usual fighting strength. The ploy worked as the Lancastrian army fled after an early morning rain. Even if it’s not true, it’s nice.
We drop our bags and go out hiking on the wall.
It’s a stunning winter wonderland but I am aware that winters were much rougher in the Roman British era, with records of severe and snowy winters. This must be nothing, compared to Roman British winters. Can you imagine keeping watch in tunic, leggings and boots? I’m so grateful for my down jacket and lined gloves.
After three hours of steady ups and downs, we stop for dark chocolate with marzipan and water. It’s great and it’s also time to retrace our steps. The sun sets at 4.20pm today and it’s already 3.40pm. Needless to say, we power through and get back right after sunset.
The first test of self-control starts in the bedroom where a welcome tray features tea and shortbread.
I love shortbread! It’s one of my favorite cookies and it’s full of butter. So I’m just taking a picture. It’s not as satisfying as eating it.
After our hike, we fill in the breakfast order menu. Do I want the full Northumbrian, toasted muffin with poached eggs, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or omelette?
It’s not fair. There are more options below. I check the following boxes: tomato, mushrooms, hash browns (x2) and 2 fried eggs. Let me repeat that: 2 FRIED EGGS. I can’t stand the thought that I’m missing out on such a great breakfast. I’ve seen other people on Facebook have moments of weakness during Veganuary. Why not me? Am I incorruptible or am I human after all? Tomorrow morning will tell.
In the meantime.
The evening menu offers two vegetarian mains and two vegetarian starters that are, in fact, vegan.
These are potato skins. If you’ve never had them, it’s fried potato wedges, only thinner. It’s very tasty and I realize that I’m starving. We change our order from regular to large portion and clean the plate. Obviously, I don’t indulge in any sauces.
I order the only main that’s vegan, though I’m severely tempted by the vegetarian choice. It’s pumpkin parmesan ravioli with mushrooms and capers. To support me in spirit, my husband does not order beef (somewhere out there, a cow keeps on mooing) and orders the ravioli. Mine is a barley and root vegetable stew in tomato sauce. It’s absolutely enormous and I can’t finish my plate. To be fair, I’m becoming slightly sick of root vegetables. I shouldn’t say that. I know.
I don’t want any confusions lying around. There are no vegan desserts on the menu and I’m not hungry anymore. It’s my husband who orders a Bakewell tart and who gives me two raspberries that haven’t touched the tart. The other raspberries may have sinned, I prefer not to steal them.
So there: 2 raspberries for dessert.
Because we finish dinner incredibly early, as in before 8pm, we go on a night hike to photograph a tree and the night sky but when we get to the tree, it’s all fogged in.
Ah well. So much for the Milky Way photograph with an iconic tree in silouhette. It’s a bit scary seeing the fog move in on you that quickly. Reminds me of a certain movie. Motivated, we return to the inn in half the time it took us to find the tree.
Tomorrow’s breakfast cannot come soon enough. Hash browns!