If I had to think of one word to describe our week in Southend-on-Sea, I might use "quiet." Quiet in the best way possible, though. We came directly from Madrid, where our final days were full of packing, cleaning, and just a pinch of chaos (that any international move can involve).
We had three fun animals to keep us company in Southend: Doug and Murph the dogs, and Larry the bearded dragon. You can see from the photos below that the pooches loved to hang out with us - they're both super friendly and were great fun at the park.
D - All the animals were really nice, though it took me a while to work up the courage to handle Larry. I mean, he's a dragon for Pete's sake! Though I barely saw him move all week inside his terrarium (save for when I fed him his daily ration of live locust-type-things), I was pretty convinced that as soon as he was given the chance he'd happily rip out my jugular. On our last day there I finally felt plucky enough to pick him up and put him on me and I'm happy to report that he didn't attack me at all. All the same, it was quite nerve-wracking to have him on my shoulder, mere inches away from my exposed fleshy trachea, just staring at me and waiting for the opportune moment to strike...or just staring at me - he stares a lot. As I was getting ready to put him back, he crawled down to the middle of my back making it totally impossible for me to use the proper scooping technique to pick him up. After quite a bit of thinking, I decided to lie down on the floor and slowly roll over until he crawled down to the carpet. It felt like I was diffusing a bomb. Needless to say, I'm now the world's foremost leading expert on dragons with beards.
Aside from our daily trips to the nearby gated park where the dogs could run and play to their hearts' content, Danny and I got out and about in Southend-on-Sea a time or two ourselves (sans dogs). The weather wasn't bad (although it wasn't great either) and we only had one really rainy day, so one afternoon we were able to get down to the seaside via the town's High Street, and finish the day with pizza at the The Railway Hotel (all vegan, and two for the price of one on Mondays!).
We lived in a two-story home (with a small backyard perfect for the dogs) on a quiet street (pictured below), about a minute's walk from a handful of grocery stores for the week. One day, as we walked to and from the park on trash day - or bin day, as the British might say! - I couldn't help but notice just what people were putting out on the curbs...and how different it looked from an average American street. Below you can see, from left, a blue container for food waste (to be collected and composted), next to it a black bag for trash, and then the blue container with a black lid and the red bag beside it are both for recycling. All three types of waste are picked up once a week, but I couldn't get over how little trash most people were putting out - and how much everyone was recycling!
On one of our last days in Southend, we took a pretty good walk across town to Oak Tree Vegetarian Restaurant for a vegan afternoon tea. I think after spending most of our time in England in London, we've gotten used to high prices, and expected as much everywhere else, so we were really pleasantly surprised to pay only £12.95 for this tea - about half of what we'd expect to pay for something similar in the city (everything was great too, from the service to the food - we were really, really pleased!).
D - It was definitely the best bang-for-your-buck afternoon tea that we've ever had! And I don't mean that it was just good as a bargain afternoon tea either. It could definitely stand toe-to-toe with any that we've ever had. Bonus: you can also order as much tea in as many different varieties as you want. We've been to many afternoon teas where you only get one cup, and one where the tea wasn't even included in the base price (looking at you Madrid)!
One of the best parts of our week in Southend was how great the homeowners were. Although we didn't interact with them too much in person (after all, they were away, which is why they needed us!) she and I were in close contact throughout the week, and they put us at ease about asking any and all questions. They're actually quite close in age to us, which made the relationship between us all feel more friend-like than business-like. We left with promises to stay in touch and visit one another if we made it back to their neck of the woods (and them to ours!), and off we went to London...with a lot of help from the homeowner as we missed our bus - a first for us and a mistake we'll be careful not to make again!