As the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and Tower Bridge is to London, so is Whitby Abbey to, er, Whitby. This most famous landmark, er, towers over the town, resplendent in its ruined glory, a stark monument to the great unseen architect of Whitby's history and fortunes, Count Dracula (NB CHECK THIS)
It's scarcely credible that in all my many previous visits to Whitby I had never actually visited the Abbey. And indeed this is not true, although the only time I did was a couple of years ago on a stag do when I stayed in the adjacent 'Youth Hostel' (a place where middle-aged men on a stag do can obtain cheap accommodation without fear of being chucked out). My memories of that visit are for some reason clouded.
We avoided the infamous "199 steps" up to the Abbey by instead ascending the Headland by the lesser known "Caedmon's Trod", which gets you up to the same height by the clever swerve of only using about 150 bigger steps followed by a gentle incline. You can keep your other 49 steps, we didn't need 'em. In fact if they just made the whole route a gentle incline then there wouldn't be any need for steps... Hmmm
The visitor centre is housed in an impressive-looking mansion, fronted by a square curiously laid with irregular stones. I later learned that this was indeed planned by the original occupants of the house as a "cobble garden", presumably the 17th c. equivalent of the concrete paving slabs, astroturf and broken brick wall schemes favoured by the denizens of the major thoroughfares of Cowgate.
On arrival we were informed that there would shortly be a dramatic rendition of the Dracula story. Looking around for where this might be, I asked a young lady dressed as Lucy from Dracula if she knew, and she helpfully pointed to the large congregation of people sat waiting in the nearby open air amphitheatre, with only the slightest air of sarcastic contempt.
Amongst the assorted tourists was a higher-than-average proportion of black-clad make-believers, including a 50-something saddo in a full length leather coat that I'd earlier seen heading into the "Bats and Broomsticks B&B for goths" (yeah I know). In my experience goths are generally well-meaning folk, it's just that it's a bit of an effort to conceal just how utterly unimpressed I am with their appearance and to resist shouting "Oh FFS wearing black clothes and makeup doesn't make you slightly scary, complex and intriguing, OK?"
I forgave Lucy's justifiable scorn as the 90 minute performance that followed was thoroughly entertaining, especially the audience participation bit; a rule of being a Dunphy by birth or marriage is that at any performance you WILL be selected from the crowd for special humiliation - this time it was Gerry's turn, with post-vampirification Lucy leering and lurching at him with such menace that he panicked and bolted, Lucy chasing him right around the Abbey. Arriving back out of breath, he loudly panted "Was that supposed to happen?" I resisted the temptation to reply "OMG NO!"
Walking DOWN the 199 steps (see what we did there) we dined on fish 'n' chips at The Quayside - about as posh as a sit-down chippy can be - I mean, Joseph had sea bass with crushed potatoes and a Mediterranean salad (!?) I stuck to cod et frites, but was dismayed to see Michael's huge haddock arrive - my hitherto adequate portion now taking on the appearance of a child's serving. I began to hate it. I was even more irritated to see Michael selfishly polish the whole haddock off, without leaving any for his poor ravenous Dad's seconds. The rest of the day was only half-experienced through a haze of hunger, as my vital organs began to close down due to extreme starvation, and I struggled to maintain a fatherly bond with my greedy offspring.
Having of course neglected to bring any of our thousands of DVDs with us, and the ones in the cottage being of the "who would bother nicking these" variety, Gerry and I nipped up to Sainsbury's to bag some viewing. Choice of hardcore horror, hardcore military action, or Peppa Pig. Eventually found a copy of The Grand Budapest Hotel which someone had evidently stashed in the wrong location and forgotten. Much enjoyed this although not so much having to explain half the film to the rest of the family sitting further away from the tiny screen, which is unable to display in 16:9 aspect ratio and therefore boxes it into both horizontal and vertical black bars. It was like watching on a smartwatch.
Michael's assessment of Whitby so far: "It's an insult to my intelligence." I think he was referring to the amusement arcades.