For many sailors the port of Whitby in Yorkshire, England, is a place of pilgrimage – for it was there that the venerated explorer, navigator and cartographer, Captain James Cook served his seaman’s apprenticeship with ship owner John Walker.
Cook, along with other apprentices, lived with the Walker family in a small cottage overlooking the pretty harbour. This very building not only still exists but now houses the James Cook museum.
Standing in the rooms where he acquired those maritime skills which led to his epic voyages of discovery was an incredible experience.
It really was an amazing feeling walking up those same stairs that the young James Cook clambered up to the attic room he shared with the other apprentices. As you enter the airy (but for the apprentices very crowded) space it was easy to imagine him banging his head on the low rafter (he was unusually tall for those days – over six feet).
The house is furnished in a similar way to how it was when James Cook lived there – simple, sturdy and plain furniture in line with his master’s Quaker beliefs.
Almost every room in the house was filled with fascinating exhibits relating to Cook and his explorations – charts, ship’s logs, paintings, drawings and items he gathered in the Pacific Islands.
We stayed at the museum until closing time and felt we could have stayed much longer.
Back on the tiny, winding, steep, streets and alleyways of Whitby the thought struck me that if James Cook came back tomorrow he would surely recognise this delightful town.
I wonder what he and the other apprentices thought of the ghostly ruins of the deserted abbey high up on the cliff overlooking the town and did he dream of sailing to undiscovered places as he gazed out to sea from the old Churchyard after Sunday service?
We grudgingly left Whitby late in the evening – too late to go on and find somewhere to spend the night – so we decided to tuck into a spot we had seen on the way to Whitby, right on the banks of a peaceful reservoir. We had a beautiful walk by the water before bed where we saw hundreds of water fowl gathered together on the still waters.
It was time to move on as we had family to visit, first in Suffolk and then in Cambridge. On our way we drove through the old fashioned but lovely seaside holiday place of Scarborough – we even saw donkey rides on the beach!
After a quick but fun visit to Jonathan’s brother (who coincidentally had his other brother from Australia also visiting) we headed for a joint 50th birthday party for my nephew and his wife in Cambridge.
As always at this sort of occasion, it was wonderful to see lots of family – all in one spot and at the same time. We ate, drank, talked and laughed the afternoon away.
Then it was off to the home of my other sister in Beckenham, Kent (South-East London) for her birthday celebrations and a hilarious visit to the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington (seating capacity 5,544) to see what we thought was a Spanish guitarist but turned out to be Miguel Rafael Martos Sánchez (Raphael) an ageing crooner (and actor).
Fortunately we hadn’t paid a lot for our tickets and actually we really enjoyed the entertainment of watching the excitement and joy he was bringing to the massive Spanish (except for us) audience.
We had yet another birthday to celebrate – this time for our daughter who lives in The Netherlands. So it was time after a great couple of months in the UK, to catch the ferry in Dover and then drive from the French port of Calais to Pijnacker near Delft.