On Friday the 14th (not quite as ominous, is it) I had a nice lunch with an old co-worker who now lives in Sweden and then after work John and I headed up to the Unity Brewing Taproom, which we had intended to go to for ages. Turns out it is moving near St. Mary’s stadium soon, so I’m glad we got to see the old digs before that. Back home we packed and got in a good night sleep in preparation for the weekend adventure exploring Kent. John’s parents got in around 9:30am and after a hearty full English at Miss Ellie’s Café in Bitterne Triangle, we hit the road.
It was early afternoon when we got into Margate, and after checking into our AirBnb we immediately walked down to the beach. It was a bit windy and overcast, but generally nice. We bought jellied eels in the spirit of experimentation, and agreed that while not as gross as the name suggests they are probably something we don’t need to have again. A soft serve ice cream palate cleanser followed shortly, then we explored the little cluster of boutiques, which had some really fantastic vintage clothes as well as other cool stuff. John and I had a cheeky snack of soul food chicken wings from the Smoke Shack at the Old Kent Market, a delightful gallery of food and shops which we meant to re-visit but didn’t quite manage. Then we met up with his parents and had a pint at The Lifeboat (not a Brewdog) before a proper dinner at a nice Caribbean place called Olbys.
Sunday morning we drove to Whitstable for a walk on the beach. But first we checked out a quirky micropub called The Black Dog, a dark wood venue covered with cool art and serving very nice beers. We walked along the beach trail all the way to Herne Bay, the wind made the walk a bit more tiring that it would have been otherwise, but it was fun to see the traditional rows of colourful beach huts along the way. By the time we arrived back at the car it was time for our next beer, but sadly the place we had planned to go was closed on Mondays so instead we headed back to Margate and a tasty meal at a Sri Lankan place called Riz. We had dosas and a curry with an entire crab in it, which was messy but good, bet was the mutton. After dinner we went to Fez, an even quirkier place than the Black Dog, and then one street over to The Two Halves, which was much plainer inside but made up for it with an seafront view. I was pretty tired by the time we got back but we did manage to squeeze in one game of Railroad Ink.
The flat we were staying in was cute and well located, but a bit warm – so I the next morning I started off a little bleary-eyed, though to be fair still far chipper than if I had been going to work. The plan for the day was heading first to Ramsgate, where John made his traditional pilgrimage to the local board game shop followed by a nice walk on the beach, which had more dead crabs than expected but was otherwise very nice. Then we drove over to Deal to check out Deal Castle, which is more of a coastal fort but pleasingly rounded and full of proto-stalactites. We had a walk along the waterfront and then drove over to Broadstairs four our last microbrew of the weekend, The Four Candles. Then it was back home for a dinner of fish and chips while watching the sunset.
And then it was our last day, we packed and put everything in the car with the plan to get some pastries at a bakery we’d spotted in the Old Kent Market. When we got there they only had some sausage rolls in the display case, so we walked down to The Coffee Shed, which had lovely pain au chocolat and au raisin, plus some delicious nata tarts. As we dug into out pastries, Ruth spotted the baker from the Old Kent Market bakery delivering a batch of fresh pastries, so it turned out we got exactly what we wanted anyway!
Our last bit of sightseeing in Margate was the Shell Grotto – which is a truly wonderful mystery. A strange underground cavern/temple/folly/grotto encrusted in intricate shell patterns, built at some point before 1835, by persons unknown for reasons that seem likely to be religious but really who knows? It was great. The gift shop is pretty on point with its theming too, so I enjoyed the whole experience immensely.
We said goodbye to Margate and headed to our last adventure of the holiday; Canterbury! Or more specifically Canterbury Cathedral. Ruth and Charles had already seen it so they wandered the city while John and I spent the next couple of hours in the cathedral. It is currently undergoing renovations, because that’s what cathedrals do basically, and therefore there was quite a bit of scaffolding and whatnot, but it is a massive building with surrounding grounds and structures so we had plenty to see; the sculpture memorializing Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, beautiful stained glass, ancient murals in the crypts, plus Victorian graffiti. We even ran into someone who recognized John from Eastercon, because fandom is everywhere.
Eventually our eyes and brains were full and all that was left was the drive home with a stop for unexpectedly delicious Italian food at La Campania in Arundel.