Ely to Boston did not take very long. Since the Fens are flat as a pancake, one surprise was how many zig-zags there were on the road: the reason, of course, was that we had to drive in a direction diagonal to the layout of the vast fields, making for a lot o right-angle corners!
We quickly settled into the Premier Inn budget hotel, which was in fact very nice in every respect: cheerful staff, spotless rooms, good bed, sparkling bathroom and nothing else, just the very well done basics.
Premier Inns are VERY purple!
Kym and Geoff were going to join us and for simplicity's sake we were going to eat in the next-door pub owned and run by Premier Inn. The pub was playing silly buggers with its Covid "rules" of one-way systems, no ordering at the bar, etc but it was still nice to get a pint of beer and sit outside in the sun to wait for them to arrive.
Kym & Geoff soon came and we had a lovely time catching up on each other's news over drinks on the terrace overlooking the car park and a meal inside (unfortunately of a quality ranking somewhere between 'nothing special' and 'poor'). The experience was enhanced (downhanced?) by a wonderful piece of Covid ridiculousness: it is apparently now the done thing for your food and drinks to be brought on a tray from which you have to remove the items yourself lest the infectious waiter contaminates your plate or glass!!!.
But that was not the point of the exercise: we had a nice time because we were together.
pics not by me
The next morning, we went to take a look at the small market town of Boston and it was very worthwhile. Boston, Massachusetts was named after it by emigrants from here; there's a plaque about it from "the real Boston" in the USA, where they obviously still take an interest in the town's parish church. This parish church, St. Botolph's (called locally 'the Stump'), is the largest parish church in England, so massive anyone would consider it a cathedral.
It has a very high tower—The Stump. Of course we had to climb it. At 83 metres high—the height of a 22-storey building—it was hard work. The spiral staircase is very narrow and it felt like winding up and up and up a large and claustrophobic drain pipe. But it was worth it for the view from the top, where we could see the whole town laid out like a 3D map. Due to the Fens being so flat, the horizon was miles and miles away in every direction.
click to enlarge
After that we had a wander around the town. The locals feel rather invaded by foreigners, but since the foreigners in question are for the most part Slavs from all over Eastern Europe who have come to the town for the agricultural work, we were delighted. There were Polish, Bulgarian, Slovak, Lithuanian etc etc shops and restaurants on every street and money remittance shops on every corner with people speaking in all sort of Slavonic langues all around.
This led to one of the greatest successes of our LTB: we decided that we ought to try a new cuisine and in the morning went round to a Lithuanian restaurant to ask to eat there in the evening. We encountered a severe language barrier when we asked in English, so I enquired if Russian would do instead. Yes. After getting over being flabbergasted at Brits who could switch into Russian, we had a great conversation and arranged that they would serve us a proper Lithuanian supper of whatever they thought fit (at their absolute discretion, so long as it was all properly Lithuanian). It was all smiles, especially after I apologised for having to use the language of the former occupier.
That pleasant surprise was to be for later. Now we had to go and see friend Geoff at his place of work—the beach at Skegness where he drives a choo-choo train up and down the beach all day for one of the amusement parks there.
Skegness, with its long sandy beach on the North Sea, was THE holiday destination for the factory workers of Britain's industrial Midlands before the days of the package tour and to an extent still is. The place is wonderfully English.
Everyone was smiling and relaxed as they enjoyed sea air taken with vast quantities of English treats: fish and chips from a dozen eateries each claiming to be the best and most generous, immense ice-creams of whipped margarine, syrups and chocolate that looked like there were 2000 calories in each plastic cup, and of course beer, beer and more beer. Plus all the necessary entertainments: roundabouts, bungees, mini-golf, shop after shop of Chinese tat, and some major items like an excellent rollercoaster. We, of course, went on that. It was great, with three loop-the-loops, and at £5 each and no queueing, great value for money.
It was a family place and all around us were families with Mum, Dad, & the kids (and the grannies and grandads) all enjoying themselves and relaxing.
The mood of the place was lovely. Better still, there was barely a mask in sight and no covidiocy to have to deal with anywhere (which undoubtedly helped with the mood.)
Geoff driving his choo-choo. It's a long beach and the train goes half a mile up and down it. We took it to the other end, where we wandered into one of the multitude of caravan parks which make Skegness stays so economical.
One can rent or buy. They are immense inside.
And the fun
Mini-golf with dinosaurs and pirate flags left, Chinese tat right
An eatery (this one was beside the caravan park and is probably busy in the evening when everyone is back from the beach or the fun)
The fun (there was miles of this)
Towards evening, we made our way back into Boston for what we hoped would be our Lithuanian treat. But first we went for a beer in a pub, since our restaurant was not licensed. There were Russians at the next table and we exhanged a few words. (It turned out they were Russians from Lithuania, therefore with EU passports.)
Our Lithuanian meal was superb. The staff at Lietuviskas Skonis announced the planned menu: 1. Cold Lithuanian Borsch, 2. Zeppelins (whaat???), 3. Roast Pork Shank.
I might just as well reproduce here the review of the restaurant that I wrote for Google reviews:
"The very interesting little town of Boston with the largest parish church in England has a vibrant atmosphere thanks to the numerous workers from Eastern Europe that now help populate it. We spent a couple of nights in the town and took the opportunity to discover a cuisine that was new to us: Lithuanian. We asked the staff at the restaurant to give us a slap-up Lithuanian meal and left the selection entirely to them. As a result we had, Lithuanian cold borsch, a delicious concoction of beetroot and hard boiled eggs, in a creamy soup. This was followed by one Zeppelin each (two is the usual portion when it is a main course on its own, but we might have collapsed under the strain)—these are a very unusual sort of large potato dumpling with a tasty filling of minced pork served with crème fraîche and a bowl of tiny cubes of crispy fried smoked pork. The main course was a large roasted ham hock with some lovely salads and roast potatoes as garnish. (The ‘posh’ English restaurant we ate at two days before could do with a lesson from this little place on how to roast a potato.) We were truly filled and truly delighted by the meal. All served in the friendliest of ways in a pleasant room with the added benefit of air conditioning on the hot day that we visited. A lovely experience!
PS The restaurant is unlicensed so a good idea is to have a pre-dinner drink at the riverside pub nearby (The Moon Under Water), soft drinks with the meal, then back to the same pub for a digéstif (which will certainly help) after the meal."
Photos (iPhone pics):
The borsch. Roast potatoes as garnish.
The Zeppelins (not my photo; I must have been too busy eating. I got it from their website, linked above). We only had one each as two make this dish a main course
The roasted ham hock. Also served with a mountain of roast potatoes. It was just one ham hock for the three of us—fortunately! It had a ton of meat on it.
The total bill for the three of us was £40 (!!!!). One could not have asked for a lovelier meal. However, next time I might smuggle in a bottle of vodka to help it go down even better.
Boston was the end of the LTB, except for several hundred miles of driving to get home (with an overnight stop in Dundee). I'll cover than in the next post as we had a bit of fun in Dundee that I want to tell about.